advent week 1: an act of wild imagination

I have realised I am sadly no longer a fan of advent. The waiting paralyses me; the impossibility of hope, peace, justice and love lets me off the hook. But in the interest of not jettisoning thousands of years of faithful practice [just in case there’s some worth in it after all!], i am searching for what the ancient advent story might make possible.

This year I will practice the following. I think they’re faithful to an ancient story. I know they’re what I need to rediscover.

– i will practice acts of wild imagination
– i will practice letting what I am sure of be turned upside down
– i will practice being transformed
– i will practice making audacious choices

I hope i’ll do them within a framework of hope, peace, justice and love. I have a theory, though yet unproven, that they are what’s necessary if hope, peace, justice and love are to have any chance…

So this week’s task: wild imagination. I love imagination – i swear it keeps me breathing. I have to admit that the easiest imaginings to make real are those that are seemingly huge, because they’re so far out there, so divorced from current reality that they require the making of the new, not the changing of the old. I wonder if the greatest acts of imagination are those that believe the small things closest to us can, in reality, be very different. They’re harder acts of imagination because they involve changing ourselves, not the world.

I’ve been reading Lorna Hallahan’s essay ‘On Being Odd’ this week. It’s part of the Penguin collection of Best Australian Essays for 2010. I know I overuse adjectives on this blog, but this is an extraordinary piece of writing. It wouldn’t do justice to pick quotes to add here; the piece has to be read as a whole, and read over and over. I realised what made it so profound for me was that to honour the writing I had to not identify with it. I had to shut up, for once, and hear it.

I’m pretty convinced, actually, that one of the hardest acts of human imagination is to imagine another’s world and life as different to our own. That’s the kind of wild imagination I want to practice this week – letting another’s story simply be that; revelling and honouring another’s difference, and letting it change who I am.


  1. it would go against wild acts of imagination to believe that someone else couldn’t find life in something just because it’s not a place i do…!

    Rowan Williams does have an exquisite way with language. it’s interesting reading northern hemisphere advent material on the first day of an australian summer [though it’s only going to reach 27 degrees C today, so it’s not hot…]. To make advent work in australia like it does in the northern hemisphere we have to deny a lot of natural stuff – it’s warm and light already; there’s no bleak midwinter here with frost or mist or ice. lit candles and fairylights are lovely but superfluous. the metaphors are harder work when the seasons work against you.

  2. sarah agnew

    ah, you use the word audacious again – it inspired much wondering and creativity at The Esther Project on Monday night from your poem ‘Hold on to Hope’. Many many thanks for that.
    I look forward to the unfolding of your advent ‘experiment’ :o)

  3. Love this Cheryl – thank you.

    I often find richness in Advent in the waiting time but I’m challenged by what you say that maybe this lets us off the hook.

    I’m pursuing an advent project to see more deeply each moment – to find wonder in the everyday and posting a little wonder each day on my blog during advent: But I hear your challenge to anchor this in the pursuit of justice in the concrete realities of people’s lives.

    Bless you,


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