Imagination. It is the magic carpet of the mind. With it we can journey centuries backward in time or fly forward to the future where we have never been. We can imagine things as we wish they were, and, when it is most productive, we can actually change the world around us. Imagination sets us apart as human beings from all the rest of creation.
Imagination is, perhaps, our most powerful tool for good or evil. Adolf Hitler imagined a world without Jews and launched the Holocaust. Martin Luther King, Jr., imagined a world where men would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.” His imagination fueled the Civil Rights movement.
Forty years ago this week John Lennon recorded his trademark song, “Imagine” in the Ascot Sound Studios at Tittenhurst Park. It became Lennon’s signature song and has remained one of the most popular songs ever recorded. In 2002 the song came in number 2 in Britain as the most popular song of all time. In 2009, Rolling Stone ranked the song number 3 among the five hundred greatest songs of all time. It owes most of its appeal to the musical talent of John Lennon, but some of its appeal is found in its lyrics: to imagine a world of peace where “all the world will be as one.”
What if we used another script for imagining a different world? What if, instead of Lennon’s lyrics, we used Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount? What would that world look like?
If we followed Jesus’ instructions we would treat everyone with respect. No one would be considered a fool and no one would be expendable. Adultery and lust would vanish. Marriage would prosper. Each of us would speak truthfully and no one would lie. We would refuse to retaliate and no one would seek to get even with those who have wronged them. We would go the extra mile and, if anyone asks for our shirt, we would give him our coat. We would not only love our friends and family, we would love our enemies and seek to do good for them. Our faith would be authentic and real without any hypocrisy. We would give to the poor in secret without even taking a tax deduction or hoping someone recognized our charity. Instead of praying long repetitious public prayers, we would pray privately from our hearts. If anyone has wronged us in any way, we would forgive them without requiring them to ask for it. We would no longer be driven to accumulate possessions and money. Instead, we would invest our resources in doing good for others who are in need. We would no longer worry. Everyone would treat everyone else the same way they desire to be treated.
Each of us, every day is creating a world of our own imagination. In the end, we each must choose what we imagine and what the world around us will become.