Some of you might have seen in the title of my blog a parody of the famous line in Marianne Moore’s famous poem Poetry: “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” As an aspiring writer with a lot of imagination, I was strangely stirred by that line when I studied it in high school and it has stuck with me ever since.
Obviously, this line suggests a turning and twisting and re-turning and re-twisting relationship between imagination and reality. The two are not the same but they are intertwined one with another. These words also suggest that any attempt to explain the relationship will fail.
My title ties together the fantastical imagination with the yearning for peace, a yearning that seems more fantastical than flocks of dragons and herds of unicorns. But it is precisely because peace is so elusive that he must open our imaginations toward it. If we do not imagine peace, we will never get it. At the same time, if we do not pay close attentions to current human realities, we will never find peace.
In his Rule, Benedict was a down-to-earth person, grounded in reality. He never thought his community was made up of certified saints with immaculate records. He knew that community life requires living with the weaknesses of others each member prods the other to do better. When it is time to rise early in the morning for prayer, the monks need to “quietly encourage each other, for the sleepy like to make excuses.” At the same time, Benedict hopes that his monks will compete “in obedience to one another,” quite a vision of peace.
Benedict directed his heart toward heaven, but he knew that imagining peace begins with tending a real garden with real plants in it and sharing the produce with real human beings.