What if instead of starting with New Year’s resolutions, we began with New Year’s daydreaming?
January is a time when I eagerly peruse the newly arrived seed catalogues for ideas for springtime plantings. Where I live in the Northeast, the ground is cold and it’s still a long ways off to seed planting in spring. Under the huddle of a warm blanket, my imaginary garden is filled with bright dahlias, plentiful peonies, dramatic roses, and giant sunflowers. My productive tomato plants have never seen pest or blight, and the herb garden is replete with all I need for my kitchen. Of course, when it comes time to bring my fantasies in line with reality, I know that I will mostly choose plants that can survive in my small and shady garden, which is also frequented by my “frenemy,” the groundhog. For now, though, it’s time to peruse the paragraphs about the Candy Mountain sunflower and Showtime dahlia, and believe in a perfect summer garden.
Ignatian spirituality encourages us to allow our imaginations a playful kind of freedom. Jesus said that one must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). I think he must have had in mind the spontaneous and trustful nature of children, who are happy to daydream. For many of us, it is easy to write off our dreams as “impractical.” We dismiss a major shift in work or relationship, or taking up some newly awakened desire or interest that may not seem sensible. Yet it is only in our imaginations that we can allow ourselves the freedom to hear God’s call. Without the spaciousness of a wandering imagination, we will not grow, but growth is central to the human spirit. The imagination is as essential for human growth as are sunlight and water for a plant, if it is to flower or bear fruit.
Recently, I have been thinking more about writing about new areas of interest, beyond my specialty as a scholar of ancient Greek philosophy: perhaps the ecological crisis, peacemaking and reconciliation, or prison reform. Any would require moving out of the comfort of what I already know into new and uncertain territory. I have recently been drawn to exploring jazz, a genre about which I know little but which I find enlivening and awakening. Perhaps this will be a year to plant some new varieties of seeds along with some old standbys.
Of course, as we move our dreams into action, we must also look to the practical needs of our families and communities. Eventually we must discern what the gritty details might look like. But first, we can dream and play, giving God the space to enter into our lives and to refresh and replenish us. Jesus tells us that with God, “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
What are your dreams for 2017?