A crisis of imagination,” is what the feller on the radio was sayin’ the other day. “Moreover, a crisis of moral imagination.”
The quick, the expedient, immediate gratification. “I want it all, and I want it now!”
New, bigger, faster; more sugar!
I don’t care where it comes from. I don’t care who made it and how little they were paid. I don’t care how much fossil fuel it took to get it to me and how much extra carbon that put into the air. I don’t care where the trash goes when I done with it. I don’t care how much someone else lost to give it to me. I just want it!
A crisis of imagination; a crisis of moral imagination.
The same feller on the radio was recalling an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson, written, of course, a little over 100 years ago. Y’all remember Robert Louis Stevenson: “Treasure Island,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Kidnapped.” It seems appropriate to be quoting Stevenson right about now.
In Stevenson’s essay quoted by the feller on the radio, he questioned his friend, a banker and with whom he was having an imaginary conversation, about why he was a banker.
The banker replied, “It is my business. It is my duty.”
But Stevenson, who rejected the family business of engineering lighthouses to become a writer and explorer, suggested his friend had mistaken duty for simply his desire to make money. Making money, Stevenson deftly suggested, is not a duty.
No, Stevenson suggested, perhaps we are called to a higher duty.
Christians are in the time of Lent, leading to Easter. Jews are preparing for Passover. Muslims are celebrating the birth of the Prophet of Islam.
All three celebrations involving the descendants of Abraham have something in common: They are all celebrations to relinquish that which binds us and look to a time of liberation, of hope.
And, if you think it’s purely coincidence that all three occur in the spring (at least in the northern hemisphere) you would be mistaken.
Christians often mistake the time of Lent, the time of preparation for the cross, as a time for masochistic self-denial; suffering through the absence of chocolate because we so much love chocolate. That misses the point.
Lent is a time to prepare for the liberation of the cross, which, in one of the world’s greatest ironies, was originally a tool for cruel capital punishment.
It is the time to reflect on that which keeps us from the cross’ liberation and set about to remove those barriers, so we can be freed.
Passover, too, celebrates the liberation of the ancient Jews from their Egyptian captors.
Mawlid, the celebration of the birth of the Prophet of Islam, also celebrates liberation from the old order for the liberation to a new enlightenment, through the revelation of God’s word.
No doubt we are in a different time than we were just an astonishing short time ago. Physicists might suggest a quantum leap; other scientists a paradigm shift; sailors a sea change. The Latin-to-English word, “cross,” also stems from the same root word as, “crux.” It is a crossroads.
Do we hang on to the old or do we reach for the new, the hope?
Steve Hart is a sailor, angler, explorer, raconteur, amateur citrus-grower and semi-professional theologian who masqueraded as a Florida journalist and pundit for the last 25 years. A fifth-generation Floridian, Hart comes from solid cracker stock but revels in the changing face of 21st century Florida and its patchwork quilt of people, their cultures, traditions, shades and ideas. His book, “Tales from Down Yonder, Florida,” is available in local bookstores and on the Web at downyonderflorida.com.