Once upon a time there was…. Fairy tales take us to a time in the remote past where things happened differently than they do today. Because we are less sure about the past than we are about the present, locating a story in the distant past makes it easier for us to engage with the magical events of the fairy tale as though they were real. Because we are bound by what we know, distance from the known filters out our inhibitions opening us up to possibilities of being that could never be realized in the more pedestrian world that we know.
As fantastic as the events are in the story, the purpose of a fairy tale is not simply to indulge in fantasies. A fairy tale is a demonstration of the cosmic order, of the victory of good over evil, presented as an adventure, a series of fabulous events that entice the mind. The world of the fairy tale is one of the first steps we take in integrating the internal order of our being with the order of the world.
As we grow older, we come to realize that the ideal world of the fairy tale is not a very good model for the world. We construct a better model through observation, through reading, through science, through analysis. Though the world we construct is mind-boggling in its proportions in terms of billions of light years, the vast proportions of the universe leave our hearts cold because the dimensions of space are a calculation, a piling on of zeros measuring the extension of the abstract units of atom, electron and quark.
The world as conceived of by science is not a place where the human spirit can live. If the spirit is to grow it needs a world where it has a place, a place that invites participation. Such a place already exists within us. It is the world of our ideals, and we connect to that world through our imagination.
Although we define our ideals through our beliefs, beliefs can only point to the ideal. They cannot capture it. The ideal draws us from who we are now to what we might become. The ideal awakens a passion that waters the desert of our imagination transforming it into a garden manifesting the hidden seeds of possibility.
Because we connect to the ideal through our imagination, it might seem that the ideal, though attractive, is a figment of our imagination as opposed to the world which is real. The fact is we also connect to the world through our imagination. When we look at a tree, we see the tree because it resonates in our imagination. Because the tree makes an imprint on our imagination we can conjure up the image of the tree in our mind. Without the imagination our perceptions of the world could have no impact on the mind and we would not be able to connect to the world. The difference between the ideal and the tree is that we can connect to the ideal directly, whereas our experience of the tree is mediated by our senses.
The ideal is already present within you. We cannot see it because our minds are cluttered by the spectacle of all the things we know. Let go of what you know and who knows what might happen. Just imagine.