A few days ago my wife and I visited a unique exhibition of North-Korean paintings. (See my FB page). Such a visit is not complete without a short trip through the museum shop. While my wife was buying a book with pictures of all the paintings that are exhibited, I looked at a few dozen novels and travel stories that all had North Korea as their subject. On the back cover of one of these books I saw a short, but striking, statement: North-Korea is a country where imagination is prohibited.
The visitor of the exhibition, and whoever takes a good look at life in North-Korea in some other way, will inevitably be impressed (or horrified) by the Orwellian situation in this country, where the state does the thinking for all its citizens and prescribes their entire pattern of life. Some time ago I read the fascinating book The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson. I described my reading experience of this book that describes life in North-Korea in a blog that was posted on 11 April, 2012. Reading this book awakened in me a strong interest to learn more of this country and its strange dictatorial culture and its, almost religious, personality cult. Everything I read since then about North-Korea and all the images I have seen confirms the sad picture of a country in which imagination is forbidden
In most other places in the world imagination is, fortunately, not forbidden. And speaking about imagination I do not mean unbridled phantasy that has lost all ties with reality (‘what would I do if I won a million Euros?’) or the inclination towards self-aggrandizement (‘who do you think you are?’, but the ability to see opportunities and to look at things in new ways and give them a new color. Not only artists need imagination to express their feelings on canvas or in a musical score. We all must have a dose of imagination to give an extra dimension to things around us and to give our life increased depth.
In an essay that Dr. Laurence Turner (recently retired professor at Newbold College, UK) wrote a few years ago and that he entitled A Costly Lack of Literary Imagination, he emphasized that we also need the power of imagination as we read the Bible. Only if we dispose of a good portion of imagination can we make the Bible stories come truly alive. Likewise, in the church—at all levels—we need imagination to face the future, with its challenges and its promises, in a fruitful way. And, finally, I am aware of the fact that I must never suppress my own power of imagination. For without that my existence will be dry and superficial and I will miss all kinds of surprising opportunities.
Albert Einstein was no doubt right when he said that imagination is even more important than knowledge!