Last summer I spent time writing about a series of values that I believe would help to hold a community together. These values give space for us to explore both our faith and our relationships with one another, without worrying about having to ‘believe’ the ‘right stuff’.
For some reason I stopped after the third value with two left to go – so having rediscovered a bit of a buzz for writing I thought I should return to the theme and try to finish it off.
Value four says this:
Living imaginatively – we are all about the story. The stories we tell as we live in community together. Whether we talk, sing, read, tell, dance, paint or sew our collective and individual stories, we recognise that the process of telling our story is part of our transformation. Now that might also sound grand, but when you become part of a story you are able to see that other ways, new ways are possible.
Which stories do you love?
I mean the kind of story that you return to time and time again, never tiring of, always finding something new to excite and challenge.
Something probably comes into your mind straight away. A book, a film, a poem…something…
Humans are built to love stories. We seek to create them everywhere that we go, from the histories we write to the news we consume. We use them to make sense of our confusing reality, to guide us through the darkness.
Stories are an art form, something to be embraced. They’re not just about words or text, but painting, sewing, dancing, film, carving, photography…anywhere that we create a vision of our world that helps to communicate who we are and what we think.
Somewhere along the road stories became less important than ‘the truth’. By this I mean things that can be proven using the scientific method and real, cold, hard evidence. Myths and legend became just that – nothing more than fairy stories or things to entertain and amuse. We still love a good story – the popularity of film and books makes this more than clear – but we seem to have lost the ability to find truth in the middle of ‘fiction’.
All the art forms I mention above are still hugely popular, but I want to suggest that they carry the potential to help us make sense of our world and to speak deep truths to one another. Can you remember being a child and being lost in a world of imagination and creativity? I want to be part of rediscovering that lost art.
I grew up surrounded by creativity – especially music. My childhood, youth and early adulthood were consumed with being the best I could be at playing my part as part of something bigger than myself. In the midst of creating this music there would be moments of sublime connection – resonance – of feeling as if I’d discovered something beyond the ordinary. I used to think that this was only possible through ‘sacred’ music – and then learnt that wherever creativity was embraced, one could glimpse the Creator. I can name dozens of experiences where in the strangest place I’ve realised this. Beauty can be found anywhere.
This is why I want to be part of a community that embraces creativity and lives imaginatively, which values each person’s ability to tell their story through whatever medium makes most sense. Part of that would be exploring the story of the people of God – again, creatively, not just being limited by one text, but becoming part of the narrative of history unfolding before our eyes. When we connect in this way, when we become part of something bigger than ourselves – then we glimpse beyond what can be seen and deep into that which we may never be able to prove.
Sometimes we may need the help of others to help us to find our own story. That’s why we need each other. That’s why life in community makes sense. We give each other permission to be imaginative, to create and to become ourselves.
As we learn to do this we are transformed. Giving voice to our deepest thoughts, fears and dreams creates space for us to explore, to try out and to ‘become’. We can realise the importance of our part of the bigger picture, that our story is vital for the bigger picture to be understood.