Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Imagination. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.

Dolphins at the Marine Mammal Institute, Mississippi, are trained to help keep the pools clean. They will be rewarded with a fish if they bring a piece of litter to a trainer. Kelly has taken this task one step further. She hides litter she finds under a rock at the bottom of the pool. The next time a trainer passes she goes down to the rock and tears off a piece of paper to give to the trainer. After a fish reward, she goes back down, tears off another piece of paper, gets another fish, and so on.

Kelly has worked out how to maximise the potential in a situation. She is intelligent enough to exploit to her best advantage the possibilities the trainers’ bright idea offers her.

In one of his stories , Jesus praises the quality of shrewdness. An estate manager was given the sack and, in order to gain some allies for the hard, unemployed times which lie ahead, he reduced the sum owed by two of his master’s debtors by the amount of his own commission. His master congratulated him on his astuteness.

The ability to see the possibilities in every situation and to act with boldness and cunning to achieve them is a valuable Christian as well as human quality. Let’s enjoy today the challenge of making the most of the situations we are in.

Peter Snow, it was reported last week, will no longer be part of the BBC’s team for elections. Someone else will now take over the method of describing possible election results with which he’s been associated for nine general elections spanning twenty five years. Every conceivable voting pattern is fed into the computer and it is asked the question What if…..? The swingometer then dramatically portrays the number of seats in the House of Commons that would go to each party, and how this would be different from the present situation, if a particular voting pattern were followed. Peter Snow’s enthusiastic way of operating his swingometer has almost become a national institution.

The What if? question is a powerful one. Without it, most great inventions would never have seen the light of day and many feats of endurance would never have been attempted. The question can also have a powerful affect on our lives, inspiring us to explore new possibilities and to risk taking on new challenges. When we ask ourselves that question, we’re recognising that there might be value in altering our lives or our lifestyle and that our imaginations are playing their part in helping us decide what changes we want to make.

Much of Jesus’ teaching encourages us to ask the same question. His parables were invitations to imagine how the world might be different if people lived by the values he stood for. What if….renegade sons were forgiven their treachery to the family, or people of different faiths broke the barriers of religion to care for each other , or ‘people of the road’ got invited to a posh dinner party , or everyone got the same pay however hard they’d worked.

Perhaps today we might let our imaginations roam around our lives and see whether there any areas where we might ask What if? Or we might ponder how our lives might be different if we lived the way Jesus challenges us to.

John Lennon’s Imagine was once voted Britain’s most popular song lyric. The words offer a picture of a world of equality and peace. They are rather sentimental, perhaps trite. But the sense of optimism must have had a wide appeal for the song to have proved so popular.

Saturday's events are another expression of the same sense of hope, of the longing the song expresses for a new and just world. Imagination is a powerful tool. The capacity to see beyond the present to a different kind of life for the world can give energy and hope. When the eyes of our imagination get a glimpse of what might be, we get drawn into the process of making it happen. When our horizons are limited to the immediate situation, we can feel very stuck.

This weekend’s music will both inspire and express the imagination of many. Like Lennon’s song, the popular enthusiasm for a fairer world challenges us all to dream. Let’s take time to do that today, to dream dreams of how things might be better, personally, or at work or in our relationships, or as the human race.

That’s what many have done over many decades of campaigning for cancellation of debt and trade justice. Now it begins to happen. Not all that we hope for will become reality but without some picture of where we hoped to arrive, we might never have started the journey. We need our minds to work out the best route but when our imaginations start to play their part, the long march has already begun.

In 1929, the trenches of the First World War were recreated on a ranch near Los Angeles. 500 veterans of the war donned their uniforms again and, for lack of modern special effects, there were real explosions. The film, All Quiet on the Western Front, won Oscars for best picture and director. Ten years later, its lead, Lew Ayres, became a conscientious objector in the Second War, seriously damaging his career.

The film was one of the first occasions when non-combatants could see what war was like. In 1929, it was a dramatically new discovery. We mark Remembrance Sunday this weekend in the context of daily visual reminders of war’s devastating effects. We get so used to them, their reality often hardly affects our heads or our hearts.

This is one reason for having an opportunity to remember. Some would rather not. Some of an older generation remember for themselves. Others this weekend might choose to let their imaginations dwell on what it feels like to be a civilian or soldier in a war. It was this attempt to get inside the skin of combatants which changed Lew Ayres’ life and it could, for us, bring a new depth to our response to war.

Today the BBC Proms Young Composers Competitioon reaches its climax with ‘INSPIRE’, a day of creative music-making, where all the entrants are invited to the Royal Albert Hall where they will work with musicians and composers, hear the winning pieces and go to this evening’s BBC Proms concert.

Among the judges’ comments was one on the limitations of composing for a computer. The music that computers can produce these days sounds orchestral but, if given to human musicians, is sometimes unplayable and bears no comparison to a live performance. “Write for the forces you have available” was the advice of the judges. “If your school just has two flutes and a ukelele, use them in your composing”. The result may not have classical beauty but often does have an interest and fascination which music using the standard combination of instruments can’t match.

It is good when our lives feel harmonious, when their different facets - work, leisure, relationships - all fuse into one satisfying whole. But more often than not, there are jarring notes, or possibly major players, whose contribution threatens the harmony of the piece. Classically beautiful compositions seem unlikely. But the creation of lives which have their own balance and melodiousness is perfectly possible, if only we can orchestrate the different elements so that each contributes as best it can to the harmony of the whole.

Let's take time to reflect today on the different aspects of our lives, and then to respond willingly and positively to the challenge of incorporating constructively anything which, at first sight, appears to be discordant. The result may well be harmonious only in parts, but at least it will be real and live.