Imagination Is More Important than Knowledge

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.”

Imagine that!

A Mysterious Country

On Sunday I found a bird in the backyard trying to fly but caught in something that kept pulling her back to the ground. Initially it looked like fishing line, but when I got closer I could see it was some sort of vine, dry but very strong. I got some scissors to cut her free, but she was so frightened she kept trying to lift-off, and I was unable to cut as close to her foot as I would have liked. Still, I got the vine cut and on her first attempt she hopped-flew just a short distance, so I tried to get closer again, but then she took flight, trailing six inches of vine still wrapped on her leg.

I have a friend who has a broken heart, which in turn makes all the hearts close to her ache a little. We want to make it better. My friend is like the ensnared bird wanting to fly again but unable to move more than a short distance from the ground. When she is able to break free of the vine she is entangled in, it’s likely a piece of it will still be wrapped around her, a piece she will have to carry, altering her pattern of flight for a while, perhaps even permanently.

The heart is a mysterious country with a varied landscape and a language all its own. Our sacred contract to life means we’ve committed to experience all the heart brings from the giddy highs of unexpected love to the crippling lows of heartache. Our family and friends can distract us from a broken heart, maybe even soothe it, but the mending of it is a holy process done in conclaves in the private rooms of that same heart with a brigade of angels catching tears, snipping vines, returning us to flight.

Stay Woke

The older I get, the less in touch I am with latest lexicon of street slang. I only first heard the phrase “stay woke” when I attended the Martin Luther King Day event at Riverside Church.

For those who don’t know, “stay woke” means to stay informed and conscious in turbulent times and to be vigilant about and critical of the media machine and the establishment and ready to act. The phrase first gained traction in the African American community after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. When I heard it, it quickly gained traction in my heart and soul, reverberating there like a drumbeat and repeating in my mind like a mantra.

That mantra thrummed in me on my way to Washington, DC where on January 21st I joined friends, and what globally turned out to be millions of others, for the Women’s March. Claustrophobic as I am, it was good to be among so many like-minded people, walking, talking, laughing and standing in solidarity.

I spend a good deal of my energy these days trying to understand what happened in our country, what is currently happening here, and what might happen here, how we affect other countries, as well as trying to figure out when and how to respond. I wonder if the endless online petitions I’m signing (slacktivism) and the ongoing protests are making a difference.

I’ve been doing a little reading on that subject (The Washington Post, Vox, and others) and while there is some disagreement about the efficacy of those actions, most of the articles I read claim that slacktivism and protests do work with varying degrees of success. They raise awareness and deepen understanding. They show commitment and foster activism.  It takes time to know their impact. They give hope. The spontaneous protests in response to the immigration ban were heartening, as were the responses by judges, attorneys general and mayors of major cities. But now we have the so-called “routine” raids targeting undocumented immigrants. With each heartening act it seems there is an equally disheartening one that tests our resolve and challenges us every day to find new ways to recommit to what is just.

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump by the Electoral College were choices driven by fear. Those of us who did not agree with the outcomes are now living in fear of the ramifications. The harmful effects of the energy pollution of that collective fear are impossible to know or predict but I believe very real.

What makes fear recede? Breath. Hope. Light. Laughter. Sight. Action. Huddling together. Living life. Remember how turning on the light when you were a child and afraid of the dark made the fear go away? Turn on the light. Stay woke. Stay woke. Stay woke.

Magnificence!

We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom and light!” Hafiz

In her book Dying to Be Me, Anita Moorjani writes about her near death experience, which occurred when she was losing a four-year battle with cancer. Rushed to the hospital, she went into a coma and was not expected to live. She refers to the place she went while in the coma as another realm.  While in this realm, her powers of perception were magnified so that she was taking in much more. She was able to see and hear what was happening in her hospital room and beyond.

There is much in her experience that is profound and amazing, so much so that at times she confesses she doesn’t have words to properly describe it. She writes of feeling the magnificence of her soul and of being completely fearless and overwhelmed by love. She was also able to see the myriad life connections, how every soul is connected, how every living thing is connected and has a unique and important part to play. In this state, realizing who she truly was, Moorjani was able to make the decision to return to life on this plane, though she was more than content in the other realm. She knew when she returned here she would fully heal, which she did, stunning her doctors and her family.

Moorjani’s message that our souls are magnificent cannot be overstated. It’s the type of message, however, that we tend to take at face value and not fully internalize. What if we were to truly believe that we are magnificent and perfect just as we are? Would we then rejoice in who we are? Rejoice in our magnificent lives? How would it affect the way we interact with and treat one another? What if we truly understood the meaning of the connections in our lives, even the ones that seem sour, and that each person we encounter is important to us in a unique way just as we are to those we encounter?

Times are unsettling and uncertain right now, which may make it the perfect time to recognize our personal wattage, to magnify and expand our light.

Divine Ready

Not long ago, I woke up with the words “divine ready” in my head. The message might as well have been Sanskrit in terms of my ability to decipher it. Was the Divine ready for me, or was I supposed to be ready for the Divine? Had a celestial being stuck a numinous fork in me while I slept and pronounced me ready to come out of the oven? And if so, it’s about time! Who knew I would be a slow cooker that took decades to roast to heavenly readiness?

I have been pondering the celestial message ever since. Maybe a word was lost between sleep and waking and the message was really intended to say, “Be divine ready.” That sounds simple enough. In fact, aren’t we all divine ready from the moment we’re born? There is a difference, though, between showing up willingly and open to receive and showing up tuned out, playing our same old songs, not open to new rhythms and beats which may carry life-giving, life expanding messages.

Truly being divine ready may take some effort and attention, listening with not just our ears but with our hearts and every divine cell of our beings. It might mean being present and sometimes still, going with the flow instead of anticipating it or trying to direct it, experiencing the divine in absolutely everything from anxiety about impending news to dashed hopes and expectations to unanticipated joy and surprise encounters.

It does not have to be—and usually isn’t—spectacular and yet, what about every breath is not spectacular? The Divine is, was and always will be ready. Are we ready for the Divine? I am staying tuned for some new music, keeping my eyes open, trying to decipher if the tinnitus in my left ear is really an angel speaking to me, and remaining open to new possibilities with every breath.