Who has Captured your Moral Imagination?

Elizabeth Camden Musings on Life 3 Comments

Who has captured your Moral Imagination?

I was thrilled by the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy a few years ago. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how blessed I was to be exposed to Tolkien’s writings during the formative years of my adolescence. I devoured the tales of heroism, camaraderie, and refusal to give up in the face of overwhelming odds.

I grew up in a house that was filled with books. Mostly good ones, but I smuggled in my fair share of romance novels, comic books, and thrillers.

All of those books…even the seemingly frivolous romance novels and comic books… had a common theme. Hard work and perseverance were honored. On the rare occasion when a character acted dishonorably, there were consequences. Those books captured my imagination and inspired me to plow through a difficult adolescence where books were my primary means of escape.

I’m afraid that isn’t the case in so much of the culture that has seized modern imagination. I work on a college campus and am stunned at how the Kardashians seemed to have captured the imagination of otherwise intelligent young people. Here we have a family whose daughter vaulted to fame for releasing a sex tape. In the following years they have glorified conspicuous consumption, tacky bling, and out-of-wedlock births. They have no apparent ambition, accomplishments, or aspirations beyond the next party. And yet these are the women who set the standard for many of our young people today.

Aristotle once said “give me the storytellers, and I will control the government within a generation.”

Who is writing our national story? Who is capturing our imagination, helping set our aspirations? We need more Tim Tebows. More Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenbergers. More Tolkiens. I don’t believe our books and movies need to be overtly religious (Tolkien’s fiction never was, although he was a devout Catholic.) Most good novels have a sound moral foundation. Readers want to see decent people triumph and the vain, lazy, and immoral fall by the wayside. I’m not sure why popular culture seems to be the opposite of what is routinely celebrated in novels.

As I prepare to teach a load of brand new students arriving on campus this year, I’ll try to plant this seed. “Who owns your moral imagination???”

Choose wisely, grasshopper…

Comments 3

  1. Teni Burns

    I too love the Aristotle quote. And what a great question you pose. I have just reread The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, a novel about a woman who worked and lived in The Hermitage Museum of Art during the seize of Leningrad. It inspired and moved me. The novels of Winston Graham, esp the Poldark saga has always been a favourite of mine and morally sound in a very human way. And ‘Consider the Lily’ The brilliant work by Elizabeth Buchan similarly so. Thanks for asking!

  2. Elizabeth Camden

    Teni…. I LOVED POLDARK! I fell in love with the mini-series, then ordered the entire series of WInston Graham books and read them until the spines broke apart. I gather they are filming a new version of the original novels. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but it will be hard to top the old one!

Leave a Reply