The past few weeks I reflected on empathy, awareness and imagination – what I call the building blocks of hope and meaning. Last month I wrote about awareness as being present and being prepared. But, being present and prepared for what?
I once attended an exhibition of the space race in Sandton Convention Centre. The organisers dedicated part of the exhibition to the different ways in which Science-fiction influenced the space race. Much of the authors’ “flights of imagination” was rooted in the new technologies of their day. Nevertheless, they suggested solutions to many of real problems humanity faced. They saw alternative ways. Imagination helps us to see alternative possibilities.
The well-known theologian, Walter Breuggemann wrote about prophetic ministry as “to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.” To nurture and nourish an alternative to what we know and accept as “how it is”. But what we know and accept is increasingly getting us into trouble. To see beyond these realities requires imagination. Imagination is the ability to see something new, to intuitively conceptualise and courageous pursue that dream.
It is not only prophets (self-declared or divinely appointed) that needs to nourish and nurture imagination. The dominant culture of the day confronts every individual and humanity as a whole – no one can escape this confrontation. The dominant culture controls humans through political, economic, cultural and even religious forces. These forces cause immense suffering and more and more hopelessness for humanity and individuals. We need imagination to resist these forces that destroy humanity, community and nature.
The idea that imagination is an important part of our business and personal world is not new. At one point every entrepreneur, every leader, every artist imagined something that was not yet. Inspired by that idea or image they changed the way they saw the world, the way they valued that which they had and embarked on an adventure to create an alternative.