Imagine all the people

Imagine all the people

Thank God its them instead of you

I was talking to a friend to relayed the impact of a moment when she was asking for help in an awkward situation and received a beauracratic response.

She was left feeling unseen and frustrated.

I was then watching a movie with a bit of action and violence in it and reflecting how much I had changed from the little boy who was traumatised by watching the wizard of oz.

What is the connection you ask?

I remember very clearly the Wizard of Oz. I sat up what felt very late at night as Bill Collins introduced the movie and then entered a world of witches and yellow brick roads. I entered into Dorothy’s world and those flying monkeys scared me silly. My fingernails hurt because I chewed them so much.

Now I can watch quite scary or violent movies without being affected and our movie classifications tell me that is because I am more mature.

On reflection I want to challenge that assumption.

I wonder if the reason I can watch people being hurt and killed without much affect is because I have become more distanced from reality. I have build a wall of safety around myself that allows me to see others in trouble without it affecting me.

As I have said before. I love that the shortest verse in the bible is “Jesus wept”.  That verse comes in the context of him seeing how distraught Mary and Martha were at the loss of their brother. What has always fascinated me about that verse is that Jesus had an answer to their problem. He was going to “fix” it up, but that didn’t stop him allowing himself to feel.

One of the things we teach is that its not possible to know what someone else is feeling or thinking unless they tell you.

That is true. However I wonder whether allowing ourselves to imagine what life might be like may not be a bad thing.

I wonder if part of the reason we can allow poverty, abuse or unjust war to happen is because we avoid putting ourselves in the place of those who are affected.

I was watching an interview with Midge Ure from Ultravox last night. He worked with Bob Geldof to pull off “Band Aid” and the song “Do they know it’s Christmas”?

There is one lyric in that song that is almost offensive. I think it was Bono they got to sing “Thank God its them instead of you”. The problem is not enough people were offended by it.

I wonder whether the imagination of a child is actually much more important than the knowledge of an adult?

Albert Einstein said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

If it is true that we can’t really know another person fully, perhaps we need to rediscover the importance of imagination in relationships.

Perhaps I need to get better at imagining what life might be like for my wife when I continually seem pre-occupied?

Or imagining what it might be like for my sons who what their dad’s attention and he is busy with work?

Or imagining what life is like for a young person from a complex background just trying to get their life on track?

I wonder if my friend would have received a different response had the person on the other end of the phone taken the time to imagine what it would be like to be in her predicament?

I wonder whether we need to rediscover imagination, and as we do allow ourselves to care?

2 thoughts on “Imagine all the people

  1. ‘imagine all the people’ yeah i don’t know if you have seen the film clip to john Lennons song but he sings it while in his mansion playing a white piano in a white suit.

    i remember watching it and thinking it ironic the song he was singing. at time i have almost wished i was more unfortunate but rather to understand the point of others, but to rid the guilt i had when i saw others in a worse off place and did nothing about it.

    i can imagine, i can be affected emotionally, but i think its really about being affected to the point of taking action, making a difference, so often i will pray out of guilt or my own unwillingness to act.

    its a good question to ask, are we willing to imagine life for others and to empathetically feel the difference if things were different?

    i think i am challenged, hopefully God will help my actions to show me that i am.

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