An acquaintance of mine was lamenting the loss of her childhood imagination on Facebook the other day. I couldn’t imagine how terrible that would feel, I mean, in many ways imagination is the essence of youth. Losing it would be like losing your inner child, losing the key to a brighter future.
What is imagination, anyway? Imagination is the ability to suspend disbelief in the viability of a new and different world. It is the means by which new and different ways of being are envisioned and explored. It can be done alone or it can be shared. Sharing often multiplies the possibilities and amplifies the wonderment.
Adults fondly refer to their atrophied imagination as “thinking outside of the box,” but the constructs we accept as functional paradigms tend to ossify as their bones weaken. This puts true, pure, unhindered childhood imagination out of reach, as the new world they try to envision couldn’t possibly work because of this, that, or the other thing.
Imagination requires the suspension of disbelief in a new world. Put otherwise, imagination requires the suspension of one’s faith in the incontrovertibly of the current paradigms.
Paradigms are cognitive frameworks shared by a group. That group may be a family, a company, a nation, or even the entire body of humanity. They are all around us; we live and die by them.
One paradigm that is dominant more or less by default for lack of any valid competition at the moment is the belief in private property. The idea of private property is a construct, a paradigm. Much of the human activity in the world today revolves around the notion that property can be privately owned by an individual or a corporation. People strive for it, fight over it, live and die for it. But what if private property were no longer commonly held to a valid paradigm? Can you imagine that?
The same could be said for money. A nation’s currency is a construct. Its worth is wholly dependent upon the ability of its government and citizens ability to market it amongst themselves and to foreigners. What if the mighty American dollar was no longer held to be valuable? It has happened before in other great civilizations. It will happen again. Can you imagine a different way of exchanging with others, a different economy?
Imagination flows from above, downward and from the inside, outward. A still heart and an open mind set the stage for its emergence. I find myself regularly imagining possibilities for a new and fulfilling world and I love hearing novel thoughts and inspiration from others on this vital subject. Most human activity occurs because someone envisioned a new way of doing things, true? Why can’t that someone be you, be me?
The truth is the world is ours to create. You and I are creators. How was it put in that beautiful passage in Isaiah? “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” New heavens are conceived in the imagination of our hearts and our thoughts; they are invisible. The new earth is formed by our words and deeds. We are way way more powerful than we tend to imagine.
Suspension of the disbelief in the possibility of a new world, a happy, healthy world, for instance, is the means by which we transcend the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short paradigm that our lesser nature perceives as normal. It is normal to believe that life’s a bitch and then you die, that nothing is certain but death and taxes, and that the world is generally a scary place. But normal – the so-called “real” world – is not necessarily natural, my friends. And reality is far better than we have held it to be.