March Breaking Freedom
The Decline of Imagination and How We Can Reclaim it
By Tricia Stewart Shiu
“My Heart” – Oystein Sevåg
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.
For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
ARTISTIC ALLEGORY | LE MOT JUSTE
Are we losing our imagination?
It’s a valid question and if you dig deeper, there is overwhelming evidence that the decline of imagination could, very well, lead to the demise of our civilization.
Before you worry, too much, that a seemingly innocuous subject like our imagination, might involve such a serious turn of event of epic proportions—remember that there is a simple solution to turning everything around and it all starts with you.
How on earth, could you be the key to ignite an entire world of imagination? Or how could you, possibly, be to blame for something that involves other people’s inane, lazy, bourgeois life choices?
If you doubt the importance of creativity, look at the most repressed people and how important creativity is to them. When a country is overtaken by a dictator, the first thing the dictators does is shut down newspapers, museums, etc. Without these creative outlets, the culture and individuals fail to thrive.
Think for a moment,
At our darkest and most desperate times, creativity is, quite literally, the only thing that can save us from despair. It is also the most uniquely individual part of each of us. Without imagination, our lives become colorless—a black and white world, devoid of choice or joy. The colorful hues of playful, thought-provoking and emotionally moving creative thought, can best be described in the words of Maya Angelou:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise …”
about the poem,
"Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou.
When a person’s creative essence is shut down, you deny his or her true essence. Historical oppression is a testimony to human resilience. The dictator feels that by shutting down creative outlets, he can control his people’s will to live and thrive. What has been proven over the years, is that nothing can suppress a human’s need or desire to thrive or create. Without knowing it, many an oppressor, has given rise to an insurmountable collection of art and literature. Up until the early 1960’s, creativity was relegated to an elite group of social outcasts. The truly creative, were thought to be “different.” Their work was enjoyed as entertainment, but never thought of as useful, in any concrete manner.
The beauty of today’s world is that we all have the potential to create and imagine and share the results instantly with anyone on the planet. But, there is a certain amount of risk involved with sharing your ideas, thoughts and dreams with people (some of whom you’ve never met).
“If we only listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair, a friendship, or go into business, because we’d be cynical. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury, science fiction writer
The alternative to taking a risk, as Bradbury so beautifully says, is quite bleak.
Ina Sinsheimer, Director of one of the longest existing preschools in Santa Monica, California, has built an entire curriculum around Einstein‘s belief about our imagination. Sinsheimer and her preschool, first step, have nurtured generations of children to think creatively.
Well, imagination is great for preschoolers and maybe even through early school years, but eventually something happens to us, doesn’t it? A slow, sad descent into “realism” begins and suddenly, the hopes, dreams and expansiveness squeezes in, until your beautiful imaginary playground is nothing but a faint, desiccated memory.
Adults usually reach a breaking point in life, at which time, they attempt to “rediscover” their lost dreams.
Where does one begin, when rediscovering an elusive, yet still poignant and sought after dream?
What is “imagination,” really? First you have to think of the context in which you are using this word. Then you have to define the personal or professional circumstances and parameters that are surrounding the context. All in all, it takes thought to be creative. Here are a few definitions people have come up with, over the years:
“Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity….”
— Dr. Edwin H. Land, Founder, the Polaroid Corporation
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainty….”
— Erich Fromm, Psychotherapist
“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science….”
— Carl Sagan, American astronomer
“The things we fear most in organizations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances – are the primary sources of creativity….”
— Margaret J. Wheatley, consultant, speaker and author of Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
“Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual….”
— Arthur Koestler, Hungarian born British novelist, journalist, and critic, best known for his novel Darkness at Noon (1940)
“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work….”
— Rita Mae Brown, author of Pawing Through the Past
“Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like the river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem….”
— Rollo May, PhD Clinical Psychology, author of Existence
“Creativity is a passionate, exciting and challenging effort to make just the right connection amid the buggering chaos of everyday reality.”
— Neil McAleer, author, Earthlove
So, yes, you are the key to choosing to rekindle your relationship with your, hitherto, withered imagination. All of the people quoted above, started by asking themselves, “What is imagination, to me?” Then, they looked around at their surroundings and observed what they saw.
Hey, it’s a start—and who knows, perhaps your newfound interest in imagining, might inspire someone around you to do the same.
You never know who is watching. Sinsheimer sums it up perfectly, “If you think about children at this age, before the real world comes in on them, each of them uses a puzzle differently, uses paint differently and we need to encourage that. We do not need to teach them how to think. They need to learn to think for themselves.”