Virtually every crisis at its core is a failure of imagination.
The greatest crisis of our lives is not economic, intellectual, or even what we usually call religious. It is a crisis of imagination.
We are getting stuck on our paths because we are unable to re-imagine our lives differently and better than they are right now.
We hold on desperately to the status quo, afraid that if we let go, we will be swept away by the torrential undercurrents of our emptiness. The most important thing in the world is to be willing to give up who you are for who you might become. Giving up the old familiar things that you hold onto slavishly, even when they no longer serve you on your journey.
Imagining a better world mean imagining is that which is beyond you, which you can only reach if you are willing to take a leap into the abyss.
Find your risk, and you will find yourself. Sometimes that means leaving your home, your father’s house, and your birthplace and traveling to strange lands.
Both the Buddha and the biblical Abraham do this quite literally. But for the Kabbalist, the true journey does not require dramatic breaks with past and home. It is rather a journey of the imagination. In the simple and literal meaning of the biblical text, Abraham’s command is Lech Lecha… “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house.” Unpacked by the Zohar, it is taken to mean not “Go forth,” but “Go to yourself.” The journey is inwards, the vehicle – imagination.
It is only from this inside place that we can truly change our outside. It is only in the fantasy of re-imagining that we can change our reality.
The path of true wisdom is not necessarily to quit your job, leave your home, and travel across the country. Often, such a radical break is a failure rather than fulfillment of imagination. True wisdom is to change your life from where you are. Through the power of imagination.
In her TEDxGaborone talk TJ Dema says”imagination is experiential knowledge of the world coupled with what could be, so of course one’s circumstance conditions if and of what we dream.” She then goes on to suggest that ‘imagination is a symbiosis between knowledge and dreaming, unfortunately our society, and its educational systems, do a good job of emphasizing the value of knowledge.’
She continues to make her argument that “we are drawn to the stability of knowledge, its measurability while imagination is often left to the minds of the young or those who rebel against the standard textbook expectation.”
The traditional dogma is that what can be measured, will be measured and adopted as the narrative. It is difficult to measure imagination, creativity and innovation and therefore that which cannot be measured is left-out of conventional literacy and narrative.
We have to imagine a better world for all of us. Nikos Kazantzakis writes, “You have your brush and your colors, paint paradise, then in you go.”
Unfortunately we are slaves stuck in a crisis of imagination. Consequently, the healing of slavery is a ritual of imagination. For an entire evening, we have to become dramatists, choreographers, and inspired actors of imagination.
We have to imagine our better lives as the first step on our path to freedom.
As George Bernard Shaw reminds us, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.”
Children who play in fountains are the guardians of the imagination. They know of the gibberish and flow quality of words, qualities nourished by the imagination. Almost all children at some point write poetry until someone tells them their poems are not good enough or not serious enough. Then, they become adults.
Ursula K. Le Guin captured it very well when she said:
The creative adult is the child who survived after the world tried killing them, making them “grown up”. The creative adult is the child who survived the blandness of schooling, the unhelpful words of bad teachers, and the nay-saying ways of the world. The creative adult is in essence simply that, a child.
A friend shared with me a book of poetry written by 11-year-old Mattie Stepanek. Mattie has a rare and fatal form of muscular dystrophy. I think Mattie is an ambassador from the world of childhood as well as from the world of pain. The following poem is called “Faces of Faith”:
Everyone is born with a Heartsong,
But as we grow up,
Sometimes we forget about it,
Because we don’t listen to it enough.
And the people of war, well,
They really need to get them back.
Their Heartsongs really need to live,
Because when we die,
They are what rise up…
I will remember to listen to my Heartsong.
I will remind others, especially the grown-ups,
To listen to their Heartsongs, too.
And for the people who have forgotten theirs,
I will share mine with them.
We seek to save our children, to protect them from what psychology has termed the “magical thinking” of their imaginings. Yet, perhaps they are the ones saving us, protecting us, from our “rational thinking” and lack of imagining—sharing with us their Heartsongs.
Imagination is essential to responsibility.
We need to nurture our infancy, our in-fancy, to encourage its power rather than undermine it with scoffing and ridicule.
It is for this reason that we intuitively look for our children to create a better tomorrow for all of us.
Children are always building imaginary realms, constructing fortresses and castles with such exquisite imaginary aptitude. Dashing around as superheroes, saving banks from robbers and the like, is the lifeblood of children. We have long since forgotten our true nature as agents of transformation.
We have forgotten that we are superheroes. Eaten away by moths, our capes are long forgotten at the backs of our closets.
Birds don’t fly because they have wings; they have wings because they fly. We are what we imagine ourselves to be. The wings always come in good time.
We need to reclaim our capes of holy imagination and heal our fear of flying.
Ps: The theme of TEDxGaborone was: Imagine a better world. Its time we imagine and create our better world.