Alexandra the Great's Private Papers

August 16, 2007

The Tyranny of the Imaginary

Filed under: Tyranny — Alexandra The Great @ 12:19 am

I organize ladies retreats for my church.  I also lead the occasional Bible study and help with teas.  All these activities can be lumped together into the same category and labeled, Women’s Ministry.  All is well with that except for the fact that I am relationally handicapped, but that can be the subject of another post. 

Just this evening I was informed that one particular lady, who I was counting on being present at our upcoming retreat, was not going to be present.  I did not have the opportunity to learn more than this bare fact at the time, so I filled in all the empty spaces with details of my own.  Now, imagination is a good thing, but its evil twin sister, unrestrained imagination, is a bad thing.  It is unfortunately characteristic of human beings that when our imaginations usurp the reign of reason, they do so not to strengthen and encourage, but to tyrannize and discourage.

My imagination filled in the blanks with all sorts of possibilities as to why my friend would not be joining us.  I was searching my memory for possible sins of commission and omission, thinking that surely I had caused some great offense.  I was entirely prepared to lose an entire nights sleep fretting about what I might have done or failed to do when I learned the reason for her expected absence.   

Unsurprisingly, the facts were entirely unrelated to the fiction of my imagination.  I had been tyrannized once again by unruly and treacherous thoughts.  I had invented something to fret over and that thing had taken the place of truth.  There is nothing new under the sun and I am not unique.  How like the rest of mankind I am.  Every decade has its tyrannical fear.  Every year sees its own seizing anxiety.  If the end of the world will not result from nuclear weapons as we feared during the cold war, then it will from biological weapons that will undoubtedly be used against us by American-hating terrorists.  In recent years we have made much effort to worry about the West-Nile virus, the bird flu, mad cow disease and even cow emissions.  But all these are mere anxieties compared to our fear of fears: global warming. 

We do, in reality, live in a world of very many dangers; but like my earlier subjection to the tyranny of the imagination, we spend our energies fearing the wrong things. What man ought to be concerned about is not drinking organic, chemical free coffee; he ought to be concerned about eternity.  “Is there a God?” is a bigger question than “Paper or plastic?” “Will there be a judgment?” is weightier than the problem of landfills.  Eternal matters are the realities we must face even if our imaginary fears come to pass.

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