Saturday, January 14, 2012
Something Else That is Free: Imagination/Inspiration
This cold mid-winter afternoon while semi-dozing and reading newsfeeds on my phone I came across the following excerpt from Bill Moyer's Journal from April 23, 2010:
For now, I'll just say that I owe what sanity that remains - what hope I have - to acts of the imagination inspired by others. Think about what we learned from Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa - when few believed nations in the soviet orbit could free themselves from its heavy gravitational pull, they imagined a different Czechoslovakia, a different Poland.
Think of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu - when even our own American government was supporting apartheid in South Africa, they imagined something different.
Abraham Lincoln imagined the end of slavery and the preservation of the union. Theodore Roosevelt imagined victory over the money trusts; his cousin Franklin imagined a new deal for people like my father.
The philosopher and critic Theodor Adorno, after his own escape from Hitler's Germany, wrote about this power of imagination. In the face of despair, he said, you must try to "Contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption."
This is not romanticism. It's not even idealism. It's our power to imagine alternatives - and to wake up every morning day to try to do something to bring them about.
As simplistic as it seems, it shook me awake (and I can't reread the final two paragraphs with tearing up). And while I wished Moyers had mentioned at least one woman, I read it again and again, particularly the paragraph about Adorno.
I spent the rest of my afternoon under the pull of this passage, particularly after the parallel middling weeks that Lara and I had on opposite sides of the country. Moyers' entry has set me up for the week to come, and his insights on imagination are particularly appropriate on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. In the context of King, it's deeply moving to consider the power of imagination leading to action, and finally, change.
And isn't just the act of imagining already change?
One of my kid's school class movingly recreated the Children's Crusade on stage Thursday night. Did you know about it? I hadn't. You can <a href="http://www.protestation.org/blog/childrens-crusade-civil-rights">read about it here</a>.