It’s been 46 years since John Lennon invited us to Imagine a world of peace, with individuals living for today and sharing the world. A world without possessions, countries or religion (things which have often provided a reason for war). In the very first stanza he says this imagining isn’t hard if you try. And yet, here we are, in a world that seems even further from the one Lennon envisioned decades ago.
“We are in an imagination battle.”
Think about that. An imagination battle. That really struck me. Imagination is a powerful thing. Which is why it is so destructive when weaponized.
The weaponization of imagination happens when people are encouraged to see the worst in other humans and situations — especially those they are unfamiliar with. It happens when lies and half-truths are shared as fact and actual fact is called fake. It happens when the statistically improbable is promoted as the only possible outcome. It happens when we are only told part of a story or idea and left to imagine the rest. The President is very good at this type of weaponization. I hadn’t realized this until I saw an FB post (from Curtis Michaels) that contained this compilation of tweets made by Emily Gorcenski earlier this year:
Why is this so effective? Because the monsters under our bed are always scarier than reality. It’s why the movie “Jaws” works so well. Steven Spielberg didn’t set out to tell the story without showing the shark. But the mechanical shark they had planned to use had all kinds of issues and it soon became obvious it couldn’t be used. When Spielberg realized this he asked himself, “‘What would Hitchcock do in a situation like this?’ … It’s what we don’t see which is truly frightening.
But imagination offers equal potency when used to promote collaboration and, dare I say it, Love. That is what John Lennon was asking us to use it for when he penned the lyrics. That is what so many creatives know. Within days of reading about being in a war of imagination, I read an article from the New York Times about musical artist, Bjork’s new album titled “Utopia.” She said that while creating the album she read a lot about utopias — even before the election of Trump. But his election has added urgency to her message, which is also a call to the dreamers and creatives:
“If optimism ever was like an emergency, it’s now,” she said. “Instead of moaning and becoming really angry, we need to actually come up with suggestions of what the world we want to live in, in the future, could be. This album is supposed to be like an idea, a suggestion, a proposal of the world we could live in.”
During the past year, I’ve wondered about the dreamers of Lennon’s age. I’ve wondered why so much of what everyone had thought they’d accomplished has, or is now at risk of being stripped away. The conclusion I’ve drawn is that many of their gains were achieved by tinkering with the existing systems. The rules and playing pieces may have been changed. But the board and overall game were still the same.
What we need now are completely new games/systems. And this, I think, isn’t as easy as Mr. Lennon’s melody would have us think. Well, at least it’s not for me. I have a hard time getting outside of the box. I can follow someone else out of the box. But left to my own devices, I’m just rearranging the furniture. I am someone who, as Ms. Brown writes in Emergent Strategy, was “taught that we should just be really good at what’s already possible, to leave the impossible alone.” I have spurts of creativity. But, I really need to work within a team of creatives to get anywhere. That is why one of my favorite cards from the Sacred Rebel Oracle deck by Alana Fairchild is #28 Collaborative Dreaming. It reminds us to stay true to ourselves, but work in collaboration to achieve big dreams.
In this collaborative dreaming process, I suggest following Brainstorming’s rule of not evaluating an idea while it is in its formative stage. The more ideas we come up with the better. We also need to commit to ethical partnership/collaboration. We can only be truly free to share ideas if there is a commitment against appropriating ideas for individual gain. I’m sure that Emergent Strategy will offer others — I’m not very far along in reading it. I keep pausing to absorb the brilliance and hope in its pages.
Ms. Brown’s path towards the ideas in her book were influenced by the writings of Octavia Butler. When Ms. Butler penned the Earthseed series (first book in 1993), she was able to look around at her world and see both the potential for destruction and creation in the futuristic society she created. We need to dream like the science fiction writers who see potential in the planet and human race without being bogged down in practicality. Most great inventions were considered impractical at one point.
And so, you dreamers, creatives and those who would dare to imagine, now is your time. Your world calls for you. Throw it all on the wall (or in the cauldron) and lets see what we get. Let’s dream together.
## Featured Image is also from the Sacred Rebel Oracle Deck ##