The Cloisters Museum and Gardens is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval art and architecture. In addition to the gardens, one of their most popular permanent exhibits is The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, consisting of seven large tapestries woven in the late 15th/early 16th century. They depict a hunt which ends with the precious unicorn in captivity. The unicorn is a legendary creature said to have been endowed with magical powers such as the ability to purify water and heal sickness.
Whose vivid imagination created this mystical being and whose the story? What inspired it? Who designed and wove the tapestries–stunning in their size, color and detail, rich with symbolism? Whence does the gift of imagination spring?
Imagination is the bohemian twin of Intuition. She takes her sister’s hunches and runs with them. She is comfortable at play in every conceivable arena as well as those not yet conceived. She gave Franz Kafka Metamorphosis wherein Gregor Samsa wakes up to discover he’s turned into a gigantic insect. JK Rowling conjured an alternate world inhabited by Harry Potter and other wizards. In Life of Pi Yann Martel breathes life into the story of an Indian boy stranded on the ocean with a Bengal tiger. Imagination is what allows the reader to plunge headlong into these stories in a willing, thrilling suspension of disbelief. She is the fertile field with no visible boundaries that produces art, literature, music, film, ideas, innovations, inventions, dreams, solutions, recipes and so much more.
Like all divine energy, when imagination is lacking, life becomes diminished and drab. Without it, we can feel stuck or trapped, wandering around in a dark interior unable to find the passage to light. Hopeless. Possibly this is the darker, bleaker side of imagination. And if you find yourself or someone you know there, it’s worth attempting a jump-start back to the lighter side through art, nature or any creative endeavor.
Albert Einstein said: “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.”