It feels as if we traveled from cold and barren to warm and verdant overnight. I know this isn’t so. I’ve watched the slow progression of blooming and greening over this past month. Yet it seems like a magical transformation. As if I blinked and the landscape changed.
This morning I heard the first wood thrush of the season, singing its panpipe song deep in the forest near my house. If there is a bird that seems to arouse the feeling of myth, of the world of fairie, it is the wood thrush. It’s easy to imagine sprites and nymphs dancing and playing under the canopy of the newly awakened forest.
I’ve written of the importance of imagination and playfulness here before. It may seem that with the world being so serious, so intense and challenging, it would be irresponsible to put on your fairie wings and dance around a moonlit glade. Allow me to disagree.
It is exactly that quality of playfulness and joy that frees our hearts and minds, allowing for new ideas and inspiration to enter our lives. We don’t do this in spite of life’s difficulties, but because of them. The power of imagination cannot be underestimated. Two of my favorite scientists had this to say about 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.” Albert Einstein
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” Carl Sagan
Our brains are miraculous. Through them we can transcend all boundaries of space and time. Think of your dreams and how in one moment you might be flying on the back of a dragon and the next you may be having tea with the Queen of England. The possibilities are endless.
So it is with life.
While there is a sad lack of dragons in our everyday lives, still there is unlimited potential. To activate it, we must dream it. We must love and believe in that potential. The harsh realities of life may attempt to intrude and freeze our capacity to imagine. It can seem like the sun will never shine again, that we will never be able to relax and laugh again. There is the lie.
They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. Edgar Allan Poe, “Eleonora”
So often change and impermanence can seem to be the root of our suffering, when in actuality it can be the release. While the good things in our lives will eventually change and pass away, so too the challenges. Each new day brings the possibility of positive change. The secret is to stay unattached to the good and the bad. To cherish and appreciate, but not hold onto.
Imagination is a highly effective tool because it focuses our attention on what lifts our hearts and brightens our minds. While the world won’t always conform to our own ideals, how we meet the world can dramatically influence our path. If you are looking for the good, the true and the beautiful you are more likely to find just that.
There are times when we must sit within our pain and sorrow. Tears have their place; they release and heal. Some broken things cannot be fixed and require healthy grieving. Those powerful emotions must be felt before they can be transformed. The trick is to not repress, but to instead express. We then make room for new light to enter.
Once upon a time we were little children and the whole world seemed spread out before us in never-ending potential. Little by little expectations and responsibilities leached away the hopes and dreams of our childhoods. No, we’ll never fly to the moon. No, we won’t win a Nobel Peace Prize. No we won’t have millions of dollars. No, no, no. What about yes?
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. William Blake
There are infinite things we can say yes to. Yes to the soft breeze caressing our skin. Yes to the moonlight reflected on the waters. Yes to the person holding our hand. Yes to the belief that love is stronger than fear – that hatred must be countered with compassion.
The longest journey begins with a single step. Lao-tzu
Instead of becoming exhausted by the mere thought of the long journey before us, perhaps we can imagine how easy that first single step will be. It’s just one foot in front of the other. It’s just this day and then the next that gets you where you are going. And where is it we are going?
Imagine it. Imagine the most beautiful, kindest, healthy world – and take that first step.