In their latest TV commercial, AT&T features the song "Pure Imagination" from the classic 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The voice over says, "Remember when you were 5 and anything was possible?" Children's drawings dreamily float and fly around big-city skyscrapers. The AT&T logo flashes on the screen so quickly at the end, you almost miss it. Have you seen it?
I like that the song has re-emerged in the public consciousness. I've even found myself singing that delightful lilting melody lately. (Incidentally, when I think of Willy Wonka, I always think of Gene Wilder, never Johnny Depp in a strange girly wig -- ew.) Willy Wonka was the man who sang, "There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you'll be free, if you truly wish to be." He was the man who dreamed his inventions into life...the more bizarre, the better. Fizzy Lifting Drinks, Everlasting Gobstoppers, a chocolate lake.
Do you remember when anything was possible?
I was Dorothy in ruby slippers. I was a private investigator who took on neighborhood cases for 25 cents each. I was a lemonade stand entrepreneur. I was a city planner of sorts who raked trails through the leaves in the backyard and mapped them out on paper. The flower garden was a fairy wonderland for Barbies and She-Ra Princess of Power dolls. I was Cyndia Lauper for Halloween in 1984. This is a picture from that era of my friend and me.
Those who can pretend possess a marvelous ability that, quite honestly, they take for granted. Most of them are 12 and under. They live in a different world than the rest of us. They know in their little heads that what they pretend is not real, but a part of them that believes that it is.
I say this because I remember looking into the brown eyes of my mutt dog Nacho as a kid and whispering to her, "Nacho, if you can talk, show me! Right now! I promise I won't tell anyone!" I don't think I would have been that surprised if she had.
Yes, I adore spending time with my own children. But when it comes to pretending, I am not on their level. They are much more advanced than I am. They are where I used to be. I try to contribute, but my own storylines fall short compared to the limitlessness of their imagined worlds. Below is a picture of today's shenanigans, Extreme Home Makeover: Bird Edition.
"Toyland, toyland," goes the old song, "Little girl and boy land, once you pass its borders, you can never return again." Believe me, I've tried. I can "play" at playing, but I'm too far into adulthood now for Toyland to let me back in. I can stand at its city gates and look in, amazed at the little citizens there, fully immersed in their play -- where their inventions and creations are just as real as Willy Wonka's.
They are little creators, made in the image of the Creator himself. So it stands to reason that they would make it their aim to turn their play dreams into realities. To see the ideas in their heads take shape in concrete ways. To make up stories as rehearsals for the dramas of real life ahead of them. That is imagination.
Think about this: the greatest, happiest, and most delightful things you imagined as a kid pale in comparison to all that the Creator has planned. Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (emphasis mine) I'm not speaking of the "prosperity gospel" that many TV preachers favor. What I mean is that God's imagination is so much more expansive than ours. The difference is that whatever He imagines...is reality. Just as my children are in a different realm of imagination than I am, so the Father's ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than anyone's here on earth.
Willy Wonka could not wait to show the chocolate room to the golden ticket winners. He proudly opened the door slowly, relishing the suspense and watching their faces. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him," says 1 Corinthians 2:9. I cannot even begin to speculate what lies on the other side of the door between here and eternity.
My imagination...is not enough.