Have you noticed how dependent we have become upon video clips and soundbites? Have you also noticed that your own imagination is shrinking and losing its excitement? Is there a connection between these two things? On the one hand, new ideas can engage our mind to explore new possibilities. On the other hand, when the idea is presented in a video format, there is little left to our imagination. In today’s multimedia presentations, everything is so thoroughly depicted and layered via sights, sounds, words, movement, colors and brevity, that there is nothing more for our senses to do except acknowledge receipt of the message. This diminishes our personal involvement, and then we get hit with a different video clip.
Maybe this new method of communication gives us more messages per second than we would get by listening to a story. But listening to a story requires engagement of the imagination. A brief video brings us information that has been pre-digested and pre-edited by someone else, who decides what we need to know. But who is editing the video clips? Do they have an agenda? Is it to make money, to get followers, to influence people, to convince us of one perspective on an event? Or do we get the whole story before we make up our minds?
As a result of digesting small bits of information, our minds are being trained to prefer small bits of information. Just like we have become used to tasty, processed food snacks, and now we tend to eat fewer healthy, well-balanced meals. Similarly, the more we get “information snacks” that someone else has processed, the less we desire to do our own work and dive more deeply into a well-balanced, thought-filled mental meal.
This takes us back to the question: Are we relying upon someone to give us our perspectives in easy little soundbites, or are we reading, listening, thinking, analyzing, scrutinizing and exploring other thoughts, and processing the words and images for ourselves? Are we allowing others to do our thinking and imagining for us?
I remember during my college years, traveling at Christmas from Nevada to Arizona to spend time with my aging parents. They lived in a small rental home with a fireplace. Television reception was terrible, so we sat and listened to a book being read, gazing into the dancing flames of the fire. With each sentence, the story came alive. I am sure the people in the story looked much different in my imagination, than in my dad’s imagination. That is the beauty of our God-given imagination. God has given us a full media production center inside our mind. We can experience all the sensory input simultaneously within our imagination. But beyond this, since it is our own mind interacting with the story, it becomes in some way our own story. We experience it as we interact with it, and work through the complex interactions of information.
I believe that all of us need to spend more time reading quality stories, or listening to someone else reading them, including passages from the Bible. God gave us an imagination to use, rather than relying only upon others to process things for us. Let’s exercise our mind and imagination. To begin, read each phrase of Psalm 23, quoted below. After each phrase, pause, and let your imagination picture and experience each concept. Write down your insights.
Psalm 23 (CSB): “The LORD is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for
His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.”
In the coming days, may God renew each of our minds, and revive our amazing imaginations as well (cf. Romans 12:1-2). Amen.
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.