25 June 2017

The Climate Change Emergency is a Crisis of Imagination

The gift I gave myself this year for my big birthday was a workshop called Intercultural Shamanism and Plant Spirit Medicine. The main purpose of this workshop is to deepen our connection with the rest of Nature. It's for people who "see plants, trees, and all of nature as sentient beings that live, breathe and communicate." (Yup, that's me!) It started yesterday and carries on today, with glorious weather, two wonderful teachers, and a lovely group of co-sojourners.

Two thoughts struck me yesterday as we hiked up through a forest to the spot where we would spend our afternoon together. One was a "message" from the dance of shadows along the path that the shade provided by trees is going to become more and more life-giving as the Earth heats up. (Note the record-breaking heat waves in the American southwest these days.) Residential tree cutting should now be considered — and treated as — a crime.

The other thought was a reminder that what has kept us on the business-as-usual track of rising carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas concentrations is a society-wide crisis of imagination, something I've written about before. Our leaders, Don and Sandy Ollsin, explain that oftentimes, when people are doing what's called attunement work with plants and other sentient beings, they worry that it's their imagination coming up with things.

That thought, that concern, shows exactly why we're in the midst of a crisis of imagination. That worry belies a belief that a thought, an idea, an impression or notion that comes from the imagination is somehow worse than something that comes from our logical, rational side of the brain. Of course, I realized! It's not just that we've lost the ability to think creatively and let creative thoughts come to us (from all sources). It's also that we've downgraded the value of imaginative and creative thought. Here's what Don and Sandy have to say:
In general, in Western culture, rationalism is up and imagination is down, according to authors / researchers Lakoff and Johnson in their book Metaphors We Live By. They point out that we are under the domination of an outdated scientific paradigm that is still deeply ingrained in our thinking, language and practice. This is where we need to change — it is time to wake up from Descarte's dream and Newton's sleep! The idea of reductionism is outdated. The visible world is not all that exists — the invisible realm is alive and well. Everything is interconnected, field energies are real and have an impact on us, and the observer affects the observed.
Don and Sandy also shared some quotes from Albert Einstein on the importance of the imagination:

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination."
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
"Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere."
I've often defined intelligence as the ability to make connections. I see now that it takes imagination to be able to see connections that don't exist until we make them. And if people don't trust or value their imagination, then they cannot develop their full intelligence. It's what leads to the black-or-white, either/or thinking that plagues us. 

As I've said before, people seem to think that either "life has to stay the way it is (comfortable and unsustainable), or it becomes sustainable and miserable." What about all the wonderful possibilities in between unsustainable and miserable? Surely, as I have wondered in the past, a generation raised on The Jetsons and Star Trek on TV can picture a different world, a different way of living, that works for the climate and the biosphere?

Maybe one vital solution is for all of us to simply stop and smell the roses ... and then listen carefully to what they have to say to us.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Greenheart, I share your intuition, vision demonstrated in your blog.
    Please join this new facebook group: The Six Blind and the Elephant.
    In this group we want to discover the vision of a new sustainable, peaceful global human culture and society in harmony with itself and our planet and use that vision to create a human snowball for rapid global transformation.
    The world is in great flux and our future and of our kids are in peril. Still with the right choices we can traverse this turbulent century with a steady hand if we know where we are going.
    The world needs new solutions as old ones are too slow to avert disaster. I hope you join to help think up this brave new world,
    And please invite all your friends as well!!



I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?