July 8th, 2008
As a child, I was often called imaginative, but it wasn’t meant as a compliment. It was meant in a “reality-is-calling, get your head out of the clouds”, kind of way. It was meant to discourage me from believing in the impractical or impossible.
I knew something then, though, that I couldn’t yet communicate. I knew that besides being the product of a vivid imagination, my vivid daydreams and imaginary friends were the creations of a mind striving to find rationality. That I created them as a rational response to an early life that left me striving to make sense of realities that, at ages 4, 5 and 6, were incomprehensible.
I know now, long past childhood, that the line between imagination and rationality is not meant to be a divider, but a connecting link. That imagination runs fluid with solutions and possibilities, while the rational mind filters them and gives them solid shape.
So Mars girls sprung to life to whisper words of wisdom into ears that needed to hear that them, while dark-eyed Amazons taught me to stand strong in adversity, and to fight for a self that had no other champions. The Dove Woman, representing peace, nurtured my want for love and gentleness.
I did survive, and I grew strong in the process. My spirit may be somewhat battle-worn, but I’m still able to fight the good fight without compromising my own feelings of tenderness and love.
And I know that the stereotypes are not true. A rational mind is not rigid, and a dreamer is not lost in the illogical. That both rationality and imagination are behind every brush stroke of Mona Lisa’s smile, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. That they connect – beautifully – in the pen strokes of Shakespeare and the musical notes of Mozart; in the quick wit of Dorothy Parker and George Carlin; and in the inventive genius of men like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Gates. That each of us, as human beings, share this connection.
John Lennon struck a chord when he sang, “you may say I’m a dreamer, well, I’m not the only one”. And he was right. To be human is to dream — and it is rational to want to bring our dreams to life. We are, each of us, gifted with complexity, and a bit of the divine.
We are not a single equation, but millions of equations, and if we were to each follow our highest sum, we would find ourselves not divided, but united. Not alone in our idealism, but joined. Not lost in dreams, but invested in making them come true.
We would not lean on tradition as excuse, and sayings like “well, it’s always been this way” would never be an acceptable justification for leaving things broken or in disrepair.
It’s a new election season in America, and on the heels of disaster, the possibility of change sparks both our imaginations and our desire for a more rational world. Is it possible, we ask, to heal the wounds of people and the rift between nations?
Is it possible to overcome the dogmatists who have sanctioned the rule of morally bankrupt and intellectually empty leaders? Can the voices of reason and compassion rise above the rallying cries of war and more war?
It was dissent against rigid dogmas, and not mindless compliance, that informed every word of our Declaration of Independence. And then, as now, the dissenters seek both a dream and an absolute. The dream is peaceful progress. The absolute is never again. Never again can we allow the want of revenge to override reason. Never again can we stand idly while politicians and big corporations sink our country into the swamp of a $9 billion dollar debt.
I believe the voice of rationality can overcome the stalemate and roadblocks not only of political divisions, but many other issues. My imagination sees the possibilities.
Presently, thousands of children live in the limbo of foster care. I can imagine a day when the most innocent and vulnerable among us are truly protected, not just in a moment of crises, but for the duration of their childhoods. When the “best interests of the child” is a promise fulfilled, and where a child’s right to live in safety, and without fear, is considered paramount.
I imagine a world in which every child is given multiple and varied opportunities to find, nurture, and expand their potential – and where doing so is not a luxury, but a given.
I believe that if we were truly motivated to nurture the best within our children, we would find many more Galileos in our midst. Einsteins and Newtons, Van Goghs and O’Keefes.
In a country that sought to revitalize the rational-imaginative minds of its people, we might see a final end to discrimination based on class, color, or sexuality. We might see a day when false limitations are universally known and believed to be false – and where character really is the ultimate determinant of one’s opportunities.
I can envision a time when rational tolerance is practiced. When the steady progression of humankind is the goal of all cultures, including the cultures of the religious and the traditionalists.
Neither religion nor tradition should stunt the evolution of humanity, or become an obstacle to individual liberties and freedoms. I would proffer that no God or other high-minded entity would have us mutilate the genitals of little girls, rape scores of women, or slay, torture, or starve thousands of people in order to advance a political, religious, or cultural agenda. To live in a world where even one act of such violence is considered unavoidable, or par for the course, is to have twisted the concept of tolerance into soulless apathy.
Humanity is not soulless, but our problems are many, our divisions are great, and recent years have discouraged our ideals. So many, reeling from tragedy, or facing a time of personal crises, are feeling the weight of despair. They may even be afraid to hope for better days, particularly in a climate that has traded rational imagination for deepening political divides. A climate in which war, torture, and death was marketed as a rational response, and those who sought answers and accountability were derided as “bleeding hearts”.
There’s a saying – “we all want to change the world.” Actually, we know that some, particularly those who profit in a time of war and destruction, would like to see it not change at all. Others find change threatening in some fashion.
The dreamers among us move forward, past our fears, because our minds recognize them as unnecessary limitations, and our imagination longs to see what is on the other side. We long to expand the boundaries and break the unnecessary barriers. We long to fill our individual selves with the light of possibility, and then carry that torch to the outside world. We long to create a legion of united individualists, who will stand together and usher in a new age of revitalization, and the reconciliation of our ideals with our everyday realities.
If we can dream it, it is possible. A battle to revitalize our spirits requires no enemies, and a revolution needs no guns when the goal is peace.