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Fordham University Press


The role of poets is to get their anchors caught in many such monasteries, to shimmy down the entangling ropes, and then to record the marvelous resistance that caused them to stop in the first place to notice. But those in the monastery, putting in their time, must not too quickly conclude that such accidental tourists, dropped from some ethereal realm, are likely to drown if we do not distance them from the world we consider mundane. In both situations, that of the sailor and that of the abbot, the question of how we envision reality, of what our shaping paradigms may be, dominates our interpretation and response. Imagination shapes our engagement with reality. What remains opaque or simply insignificant to one individual nags someone else, fascinates or haunts, sometimes opens onto an experience of epiphany.

Imagination also reshapes logic and offers a new approach to a problem that facts and reason cannot sufficiently describe. Thus, Albert Einstein was once asked to explain the theory of relativity in terms that might make it a bit more accessible to the average human being. Einstein replied: "I cannot do what you request, but if you will call on me at Princeton, I will play it for you on my violin" (Fischer 15). Einstein implicitly suggested a new paradigm for the reality he had been representing until then by the mathematical paradigm that so confused his listener. This calls to mind, in light of our principal focus during these days, the particular aspect of imagination that theologian David Tracy calls analogical. Analyzing our age as one of porous boundaries between various paradigms for reality, he argues strongly in favor of an ecumenism in our religious imagination, an opening up of our systematic approach to transcendent encounters.



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