Fish Out of Water

When I was a little girl, I liked to swim. Actually that is an understatement. I loved to swim. My Dad called me a little fish, since I would spend hours and hours in the pool or lake or whatever body of water I could find to swim in. (I even attempted to swim in our dirty, disgusting ditch at the side and back of our house a couple of times.) I didn’t care what the water was like: it could be freezing cold and I would jump in it anyway. My brother sometimes refused to stick his toe in the chilly waters, while I would run ahead and plunge right in. I would swim and play with other kids but more than not, I would swim by myself. I would turn somersaults, backward and forward ones and twist and turn from side to side, till I made myself dizzy. I’d dive down to the bottom, do handstands, and sometimes lie flat on my back at the bottom of the lake, blowing bubbles. And I would imagine. I would be caught up in my little imaginary world beneath the friendly, safe blanket of water wrapped around me. The water was my best friend; it was a delightful place to make up stories and forget everything around me as I splashed and played in my fantastical watery world. I’m sure I would talk out loud down there, or at least try to, and have all kinds of conversations in my head.

I think we all have a place of safety, of refuge in our minds where we go to settle down, to think, and most importantly to imagine. And yet, somehow we have mistakenly believed that becoming adults means forgetting to imagine, to dream, to fantasize. We are sternly told to live in reality, to act mature, to smarten up, and to put away “childish” things. As Christians, we know that God is the Real, that He has created reality as we know it, and thus we interpret that to mean we must resort to rationality and reason, while brushing aside our emotions that in turn fuel the imagination. As one of the greatest thinkers and apologists of the Faith, C.S. Lewis insisted that children needed to fantasize, to get caught up in magical stories, and I am entirely convinced he was right. Obviously, he as an adult also enjoyed immersing himself in the world of fantasy of witches, lions, centaurs, marshwiggles, dwarves, and talking beavers and mice. And his dear friend J.R.R. Tolkien felt the same as he slipped away into his world of hobbits, elves, ents, orcs, dwarves, wizards, ringwraiths, and the like. Thus, the questions can be asked: Can a person find and know God in the imaginary? Is the imaginary world a part of the Real? Is our world so much bigger than we make it out to be? There have been times that I or others have tried to pull me out of my imaginary world, but just as I hated when my Dad or Mom would tell me it is time to get out of the water, so the same happens when I attempt to pull myself away from imagining: I feel like a fish out of water, on the land, gasping for air, flopping around, straining to return to the friendly waters that lie just beyond my reach.