Imagine or Die

Thoughts from Brueggemann’s Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile pgs – 23-25

1. Poets have no advice to give people. They only want people to see differently, to re-vision life. They are not coercive. They only try to stimulate, surprise, hint and give nuance, not more. They cannot do more, because they are making a world that does not yet exist beyond their imagination; but their offer of this imaginative world is necessary to give freedom of action. The poets want us to re-experience the present world under a different set of metaphors, and they want us to entertain an alternative world not yet visible…

2. Poets speak porously. They use the kind of language that is not exhausted at first hearing. They leave many things open, ambiguous still to be discerned after more reflection. They do not pretend to know the future, but they offer the present as a shockingly open and ambiguous matter out of which various futures may yet emerge. They do not need to see the end of their words or all the implications before they speak….

3. The purpose of porous language is to leave the poem and the reality to which it points open for the experience of the listener. Poets do indeed trust other people to continue the image, to finish the thought out of their own experience. But that requires the kind of rich metaphorical language that is open and polyvalent. Very often people who hear poets want an explanation, which means to slot the words into categories already predetermined and controlled. Such an act, however, is the death of the poem….

pg 26-27

In our day many in ministry are caught in bitter exhaustion because people seem so resistant. That resistance, I submit, comes from a frightened, crushed imagination that has been robbed of power precisely because of fear. Indeed, one can note the abysmal lack of imagination in the formation of policy about either internation security or domestic economics. We can think of nothing to do except to do more of the same, which generates only more problems and more fear. When we are frightened, we want certitude, not porousness. So the voices of religious certitude and the advocates of political domination seem persuasive….

The practice of such poetic discourse is very difficult. It is difficult because it takes more energy than our conventional prose which is predictable and accepted on all sides. It is difficult, secondly, because it will be very much misunderstood. We are not accustomed to such communication. But the risk must be taken. Jesus’ parables stand as witness that the kingdom comes by imagination, by poetic discourse. Such a way of speech creates vitality in ministry, because it keeps possibility open in the life of the community. Where there is not speech which keeps possibility open, we are left only with necessity. That is what the rulers of this age may want. But that ends in death.

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5 thoughts on “Imagine or Die”

  1. well certain parts of spoken liturgy are poetic. I think expressions of liturgy both spoken and sung are there which are poetic but too often hanging around in the fringe. But maybe that is the vocation of the prophet.

  2. I have seldom come across a poet whose poetry is such that he can consciously bring it to cognition at the time of writing it.
    The poet himself stands amazed at the words that surface from his unconscious,in other words he himself stands as a spectator to the words that flow from his own mind.
    Therefore the ambiguity clearly is a result of life’s complexity that the sub-conscious reveals in it’s nakedness which the mind forfeits from revealing.The mind is essentially a rational oriented thinking system.
    Therefore,when a poet reveals some truth in the words of his Self,he stands witness to it.I suggest you read Tao Teh Ching and notice the movement of thought.
    PEACE !!

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