“Jean Paul Sartre defined the imagination as the ability to think of that which is not present. Human beings are religious creatures because they are imaginative; they are so constituted that they are compelled to search for hidden meaning and to achieve an ecstasy that makes them feel truly alive.”
–Karen Armstrong, ’Islam: A short history’
Happy Easter, everyone! Whether you’re spending this lovely spring weekend commemorating the crucifixion by picking up whatever bad habit you put down six weeks ago, being thankful for the fact that your very great grandparents got the memo about redecorating with lamb’s blood, hunting for chocolate eggs laid by one of the most confused and uncomfortable bunnies in the history of the planet, or simply enjoying the time and a half that means you can afford groceries with your rent, you’ve taken the time to read my blog and so, in the holiday spirit of thanksgiving, thanks!
Incidentally, I’ve never agreed with the modern war between science and religion. The two are not inimical forces; they do not cancel each other out; believing in the one does not make the other untrue. They do not answer the same questions, and trying to make either one do double duty only causes confusion. And arguments. And confusing arguments, and argumentative confusion and then it’s just one big tangled mess and everybody’s miserable.
Let me therefore attempt to deconfuse things. Science teaches us about the workings of life, and religion (or spirituality, mythology, philosophy, take your pick of alternate terms if you have a personal beef with the word ’religion’) teaches us about the meaning of life. It’s the difference between the brain and the mind, or the head and the heart.
What does this have to with storytelling and the creative arts? Really, do you have to ask? We are the myth tellers, the myth makers. Our job is entirely about the why, about what makes us human, about the great intangible truths of existence, about, if you’ll think back to the lovely little quote up top, imagination. Not that I’m claiming the position of a prophet, or saying that a script is interchangeable with scripture. But we are telling our truths, and doing our poor best to transcend the everyday and touch some greater, timeless, intangible human truth.
Whether people go to the theatre (stage or cinema) to be taken out of ourselves or further in is a debate for another day, but we go hoping to be moved, hoping for that moment of epiphany and connection when we transcend the ordinary plane of existence and touch something greater than ourselves, in company with a room full of people doing the same thing. As the storytellers, it’s up to us to create these moments.
No pressure, right?
Art isn’t easy, but life isn’t easy either. Being a storyteller carries with it responsibility and joy and surrender to something greater than just oneself, and if thats not a spiritual experience I don’t know what is. And I think it’s freakin’ cool to be a part of this, every day, AS MY JOB. So, this Easter, I hope that whatever religious or nonreligious philosophy you call your own, you can take a minute from the busyness of life to appreciate the awesomeness of creativity and to be thankful that you have the opportunity to share your truth. I am.