This I Believe
I believe in the imagination. I believe in the human ability to conjure worlds and beings that do not exist — never did and never will — and render them in forms that make us believe in them. I believe it’s that ability, more than anything else, that makes us moral human beings because it gives us the power to imagine the consequences of our actions, both the good and the bad.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I went to work. I watched on television the first tower of the World Trade Center implode. I left my office on foot and joined the exodus, walked past the black pall rising from the Pentagon across the Potomac, and kept on walking. At some point along the way, the second tower fell.
Home was quiet and empty when I got there. My wife, visiting our older daughter in Atlanta, would be stranded there for the next three days. Our younger daughter was safely away at college in Upstate New York. So for the next four nights I was alone there, in thrall to those nonstop images of incomprehensible mayhem and destruction.
One evening, in the middle of it all, I exercised my remote and escaped to a cable channel (it didn’t matter which one) where I found — Toy Story.
Oh no, I thought. Not this. Not now. I’d been aware of the movie when it came out but had never planned to see it. Maybe some rainy day in the future. With the grandkids. But now here it was, uninvited, unanticipated, and frankly, I thought, inappropriate in the current context.
But before I could exercise the remote again, something about its infectious wit and sweet innocence caught me. I was enchanted.
Conventional wisdom would probably dictate that something like Toy Story is, in the great scheme of things, frivolous, child’s play. At best, a diversion. But in that moment of respite from outrage, grief, pain, and anxiety, I saw nothing frivolous about it. What I saw was an inspired collaboration of smart, inventive, wise, and playful people who worked countless hours to bring this small miracle of creative ingenuity, technological innovation, and humanity into the world. They brought it to life.
And I also realized that whatever kind of collaboration that had launched those planes on that second Tuesday in September could never in a million years produce anything even close to it.
So I watched the rest of Toy Story to the end. With tears streaming down my face.
We hold the creation of worlds to be sacred. The creation of our own world we attribute to God. I find our ability, our compulsion, to create wondrous imaginary worlds to be no less sacred. Toy Story may not be civilization’s highest achievement, but at that moment it didn’t have to be. It simply had to be. And it was.
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