Imagination is a garbled concept today. We tie it into our obsessions with desire and wish fulfillment. In this way we see imagination as synonymous with fantasy – again in its current accepted meaning, as related to pleasant wishes. When we discover a failure of imagination we are looking at something else entirely. It’s not an inability to fantasize – except in the far-reaches of self-delusion where all we have to do is picture some wish in our mind’s eye and lo and behold it will materialize! No, a failure of imagination is a failure to realize the consequences – in the real world – of actions or omissions.
This seems to open up some interesting ground. If we look at imagination as part of how we perceive and respond to the world, then we can examine how it might actually be useful. It also shines a light on all the current fads and buzzwords related to “innovation,” and generally to the modern preoccupation with the new.
My readings of Rupert Sheldrake has been normalizing my own experiences and intuitions regarding the breadth of our interactions with the world beyond the reductivist short-list sanctioned by materialist beliefs. He posits Morphic Fields as a way of conceptualizing much the same phenomena that David Bohm is concerned with in his Holographic Implicate Order. These are essays into cosmology. As in any and all such attempts, they work to assemble a unified conception of our experience within a story that bridges the gap between our fractured everyday experiences and an intuited sense of the wholeness of everything, of the uni-verse. In the end, it may be “Turtles all the way down!” But it is important to find new stories that bridge that gap with a resonance that strikes us as we are, as we have become since the last attempt was made. Using the broad concept of fields to allow us to grasp how everything from growth patterns, habits, and communication beyond our immediate senses might work does boost these concerns out of the ghetto they were forced into by reductivist materialism.
This is just a beginning, but it seems to me that the more interesting path this opens up is not some minute description of how these fields might fit into electro-magnetic theories, but in how we might regain our trust in whole realms of experience that have been discounted, ripped out of our lives by a tyranny of a belief in reductive mechanistic cause and effect. Mind is not just an illusion projected by the firing of electrons in our “wet-ware.” Language is not just a code, a set of algorithms for soft-fleshed “computers.” Empathy is not cloaked self-interest or some alien “sixth-sense.” These are all parts of our experience and we can gain a lot by re-examining them in the light of these insights.
This is an enormous topic! I’ll attempt to keep this close to home, to a ramble on imagination – even as this process of poking about in these hidden recesses is an act of imagination itself!
Let’s begin with communication. We have been led to expect that language is a code and that we decipher a code and we pass bits of information back and forth. This is what we consider communication.
My experience; as inflected by Sheldrake, Bohm, Krishnamurti, and Abram, among others; has been that there are times when communication is something else entirely. It seems to be more useful to think of these experiences as not simply reciprocal information processing, but as connections that bring isolated parts – me and them – together into a recognition of unity.
I trust writing as a way to distill what comes to me from wherever it comes from and put it into a form – have the time and attention to allow a form to coalesce – that might bridge a gap, provide a resonance with others. I also trust face to face meeting. I have a hard time with disembodied “meetings,” like phone calls, as a way of reaching such levels of communication, unless there is ample time, patience, and good will already in place. If all we were doing was passing information back and forth in a code and then decoding it and analyzing it, this doesn’t seem like it would matter so much, how the transfer took place. But it does.
What seems to be happening when what I’ve been referring to as a dialogue – after Bohm – takes place, is an immersion into fields shared by the partners and not a negotiation of information. Subtle physical clues from pheromones to ticks and “tells,” play a part, but so do elements of a “meeting of the minds” in the sense that two separate organisms reach across an intervening space and find a single mind in which they can meet. This has elements of telepathy. There are possibly elements of clairvoyance, and maybe even, at times, elements of precognition as the participant’s joined efforts open up pathways deeper into these morphic fields, these holographic instances, than had been accessible to each on their own.
None of this would be in any way strange seeming to our ancestors living before our reductivist habits took hold. This is, as I see it, a significant part of what we mean when we say we need to reconnect with aspects of perception and awareness that can only be accomplished as embodied Beings immersed in our world and present.
What I have found to be the “work” taking place when I am “concentrating” and tuning-in to write, or to participate in a dialogue with someone, appears to me to be effort directed to this end. I am not compiling information, coding it, and passing it along before awaiting a “return packet.” I am focusing attention in a way that makes it likely that I will be receptive and empathetic. The effort is concentrated on entering this state of receptivity, of empathy, and then of navigating that space, looking about and finding what is there and reaching for ways to let what is there express itself through me. The satisfactions this brings are not related to competitions or any form of negotiation, of finding some form of leverage to fulfill a self-interest. The satisfaction comes from, and is inseparable from, experiencing compassion as it exists within these spaces.
There is a cost to this. It highlights the emptiness and insanity of our “everyday” relations. It deepens, and brings into a bright light of awareness, our sense of the suffering beneath our comforts, the death-dealing of our death-denying and death-obsessed cultures. There is a yearning to return. Not to ever leave….
If we look at imagination from within this perspective, it is a power of illumination, not of generation. “I” don’t “create” in “my imagination.” We delve into empathy and compassion is illuminated by imagination. This is a wholly different creature! If we are to respect what we find there, we will easily cut through the bullshit storm of what passes for creativity within the bogosity of “innovation.” It’s not about “celebrating” our cleverness and “sharing” it with the world. Such arrogance can then be seen for what it is, an appalling display of hubris. We can see it as the engine that drives our repeated failures of imagination.