What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Imagining the Squared Circle

I love to read Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. (Great. Two posts and I've already identified myself as a nerd and a geek.)

Faster Than Light Spaceships, alien species, worlds hanging in the balance, epic quests, swordfights, telepathy, huge explosions: yeah, I dig all of that. But the main reason I treasure SciFi/Fantasy books are because they make me think.

First, there's the imaginative stretching that happens. What, exactly, does a six legged cat-like creature with retractable 6 inch claws that sometimes walks on four of the six legs, sometimes upright on the back two (and two legs which have human-like hands), look like* ? Man, I've really got to use my imagination for that. What about a race of humans who've so developed their communication skills that they don't have to use words anymore, they can communicate faster & deeper things just by the most minute facial gestures* ? How is it that I'm supposed to visualize that happening? Read SF/F and give your imagination a serious work out by visiting places and meeting beings to which there is no analog in our world.

Then there are the theological questions that arise in SF/F. I'm not simply talking about the question, "If there are aliens in the universe, did God save them in Christ, too?"* While an interesting question, and one I often return to when I'm playing in my head, there are more serious theological questions available to us. Give me a book with a robot, and we'll spend our time thinking through what it means to be human.** Give me a book set where humanity is far, far, far off in the future, and it's time to start thinking about the philosophy & history of religion.* What about a story set in a universe where humanity is no longer bound by physical illness or restraint? Now we'll start talking about the nature of sin. How about an alternate universe where people are born with magical talents?* Now we can discuss what it is to bless one another (or wound one another) with our gifts.

But the best part of reading SF/F books are the way they can affect one's view of the world. The truth is that we do live in a world where we cannot see the fullness of reality. There does exist a spiritual realm in which we live & move & have our being. Living in this reality requires the godly use of our imaginations. Imaginations, though, atrophy for lack of use, and SF/F helps get the pump primed, so to speak. I also think that what you read changes your headspace. It "grooves" your brain, if you will, so that your thoughts more naturally flow through certain channels.

For me, this means that my reading helps me to see a universe teeming with the possibility of the invisible breaking through to the visible. Having practiced the art of believing without seeing (seriously, who's ever really seen a lamp grow out of the ground?*), it's easier for me to believe that I, somehow, wonderfully, exist in Christ. Or that you, dear reader, are sitting in front of your computer surrounded by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture tells me that I'm more than I am, that the world is more than it appears, that something which happened 2000 years ago, on the other side of the globe, has a direct effect on my very being, and on the actual fabric of the universe.

Yeah, I can see that.


Sean said...

i really love the combo of FTL spaceships AND immediate communication (a la ansible). i dig those dynamics, for some reason.

you know you're a geek if you see the initials FTL on the waistband of a pair of underwear and the first thing you think is not Fruit of the Loom ;-)

Macon said...

I was just talking to someone at work yesterday about the "ansible." Though I didn't call it that. The subject was whether we'd ever allow ourselves to be implanted with a device that plugged us directly into the net. Most demurred, but I said I'd be happy to have a direct-to-net plug-in that resided in an earring, which would allow me to physically "unplug" from the connection.

For those who have no idea what the heck an "ansible" is, you can find it in the Ender's Game series of SF novels.

Sean said...

don't know that i'd trust myself to have such an easy connection. maybe if Jane was handling my light work... ;-)

and the ansible is original to Ursula K LeGuin [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ansible] (i love wikipedia!!!). i am hoping quantum entanglement will make an ansible possible.

(btw, while i hope for an ansible, i neither hope for nor expect self-organizing AIs like Jane, Wintermute, SkyNet, the Matrix, etc. i think Jared Lanier is right here: we can't get Windows right, how are we going to get an AI?

i frankly find self-organizing AI to be an insiduous evolutionist argument. i don't believe in accidentally complex consciousness.

so if we don't get one in the next couple of years, does Kurzweil have to confess, with Jim Bakker, that he was wrong?)

Alex said...

just got a couple minutes here at camp/resort Rockbridge and checked the blog, great stuff, Macon! I appreciate your nerdiness and geekiness and for how it blesses me all the time. this post reminds me why i can't help but love you!

i like the stretching of imagination that you talk about here, I think that I love C.S. Lewis' fiction for the very reasons you talk about here. although Lewis does FOR me what you (because you're naturally so geeky and nerdy) enjoy doing on your own. He infuses his imagination with Holy Thought that presses me to think beyond my normal boundaries.

Imagination de-flattens my world. there's been lots of thought and reflection in Christian history about what the redeemed mind, will, and heart look like. I think that there's been too little discussion and thought about what the redeemed imagination might look like--and the unique role the redeemed imagination might play in the life of the believer and the transformation of the world around us.

thanks again for your posting, mac!