The Courage of Imagination
As I write this blog, I am on my way to Dachau to be part of an honoring ceremony for Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan. Noor was a Special Operations agent during the Second World War and became the first female radio operator sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance. After four months of exemplary work in extreme danger, she was captured. She was ultimately taken to Dachau, and was executed there on September 13, 1944.
Noor is one of my heroines. I have been studying her life both as an inspiration and an example of what I do with mine. Lately the idea of visiting the place where her life was taken has become like a beacon as I immerse myself in this sixth pillar called What May Be. This is where we turn to the process of re-imagining ourselves, our lives, and our world in response to The Cry, and Noor is a paragon of how to do that.
At the same time, I have a sense of trepidation about going to such a place, particularly at a time when I feel totally bewildered when it comes to the environmental crisis.
I am going with a burning desire to hear the song of “the impeded stream,” as Wendell Berry says, for it feels like I have lost my way. I am praying that Berry’s words will guide me to a new place.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go
we have begun our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
In preparation for the trip I am rereading Noor-un-Nisa’s stories, for in them I find myself in the realm of imagination and courage. As I randomly open her book titled King Akbar’s Daughter, a smile appears on my face.
“‘Piwi … piwi’ said the two little robins in the forest one day.” The thought of her writing this story about Father Christmas and the Two Robins is a reminder. In the current world where it is so easy to see only crisis upon crisis, I rediscover the importance and joy of innocence and play. These qualities seem to awaken the faculty of imagination.
I watch the rain dancing down from the sky. The leaves it seems are shaking with laughter at whatever the wind has said, and the sodden earth squeals with the delight of a child as it starts to turn into a muddy puddle.
As I enter the make-believe world of my imagination, I feel something loosening inside, now I see Noor’s smile; with her gentleness and grace she is teasing me out of my dark hole.
How did she bear the torture that was inflicted on her? How does anyone bear that torture? As I ask the question, her smile grows bigger, as if to say, come, I will show you.
Wrapped in her light I feel the grace of the One for whom nothing is impossible, the One who she follows. I am in the land of the heart. Now the question isn’t what action can I take, but how do I serve this beauty? In the land of the heart desire lives side by side with surrender, and urgency is able to hold the hand of timelessness. This is fertile ground for imagination to seed action.
And as the question vibrates in this land, not only do I know I would do anything to serve, but I can feel beauty beckoning me with her illusive ways to stand still and listen to the song. Here the next step will come naturally and it matters not whether I make mistakes, for beauty is forgiving. All that matters is that I have the courage to serve with all my heart, and trust the mystery. The mystery where even the last word—which is Noor’s case was “Liberté”—can live forever. It carries on, inspiring in me the faith that justice and action are treasures that can be found in every moment. For as Noor said:
“In my mystery
Deep in my divine Abode
Treasures are bestowed ….”