The Individual Power of Imagination: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

I ended last month’s blog about imagination by suggesting we all ask: “Why does imagination frighten me?” And why, I add now, does it frighten our culture? Here are some possibilities.

1. Imagination breaks boundaries.

2. Imagination is lawless.

3. Imagination leads to places, ideas, images, and feelings we don’t understand.

4. Imagination can change the world. I’m talking revolution.

Consider Copernicus. His proposal that the universe was heliocentric rather than geocentric shook the foundations of the human psyche. The idea didn’t change much about day to day life. It threatened how we saw our place in the universe. Darwin and evolution kicked this up another notch.

Imagination can bring earthquakes of the psyche and soul. We do need containers and boundaries for the powerful archetypal forces within us. And imagination can be an arrow that pokes a hole in the vase and lets the unknown burst through. We aren’t educated about this process, so we don’t know how to handle the beauty and terror of  the “Tyger, tyger burning bright.”

We can imagine horrors. As our world has grown more dangerous and more out of our control, we’ve had to shy away from imagination just to get out of bed in the morning. We let imagination atrophy because we don’t want to face unimaginable horrors like WW3; nuclear winters; wars over water; mass migrations away from the deserts we’ve created in our bottomless hunger for energy.

But if we allow imagination to atrophy for fear of looking at the “unimaginable” that might come to pass, then we also diminish the possibility that imagination can save us. Because it can. Imagination can create alternatives, solutions we haven’t considered. Ways of solving problems, ways of thinking, images we might rally around.

So my answer to the question, why do we fear imagination is this: We fear imagination because it is powerful. It is one of the ultimate powers of the individual. Authorities have always known this (one reason artists are persecuted). Imagination cannot be taken away from us by any government, law, political leader, religion, or corporation. And in that lies our greatest hope against what faces us today.

So embrace imagination, and cultivate it with all your heart.


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