I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.”
We grow up in America in the school system with very little exposure to art. Learning is mostly a matter of acquiring information. We’re trained to recognize truth as information. We don’t get much help in seeing things as a whole, in context, in relationship – I guess you could call it “an ecological imagination,” where everything fits, where everything goes together in some way.
That’s why the Scriptures are impenetrable to so many people, because we read them looking merely for information. The Psalms, which are the center of the church’s prayer life, are probably the least-appreciated part of the Scriptures because they’re poetry. They’re treated so selectively. People have their favorite psalms, but we’ve lost the old habit of the church of reading through the Psalter, reading them all in sequence over a period of a month or two. You’re practicing a form of lectio divina when you’re praying the Psalms. You hear psalms read at funerals and weddings, but we’ve lost this immersion in the Psalms.
When we approach the biblical text, instead of asking, “What does it mean?” – which is what people usually do – we should ask, “What is it doing? How do I enter into this? How does it enter into me?” You know, it’s surprising: We have Jesus as the centerpiece of what we’re doing, but he almost never talked in terms of explaining. He was always using enigmatic stories and difficult metaphors. He was always pulling people into some kind of participation.
It’s essential for us to develop an imagination that is participatory. Art is the primary way in which this happens. It’s the primary way in which we become what we see or hear.
I think a pastor is in a unique position to cultivate this participatory imagination. We shouldn’t just be giving information, because so much of what we’re dealing with is entangled with the invisible, the inaudible, the unsayable.”
The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;
Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.
We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.
But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.
Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.
A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.