Change is in the air, within our personal lives, in our communities and nation and around the globe. We find ourselves in a land charted as “terra incognita,” where the only path through it is one that begins in the imagination. We reach for words, and words too fall short, except perhaps for a few useful phrases, such as:
I don’t know.
Take my hand.
In her acceptance speech, receiving the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska noted the importance of “that little phrase ‘I don’t know’.” She explained, “It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto.”
How easily does the phrase “I don’t know” come to you? Have you recently felt its winged lift, or does it cause you to dig your heels in, refusing to leave the ground you have known before?
Every day, even the most routine, opens its invitations to the imagination, asking us to participate in creating something that did not exist before. But often, shackled by what we think we know, or by our insistent need to know, we shy away from these invitations to step into terra incognita. To see the world and one another with new eyes. To imagine ourselves in right relationship with others and with creation itself. To recover our belonging, not only to one another, but to the past that brought us here and to the future that beckons. It is an invitation into wholeness.
A common myth about imagination is that it starts with nothing. More often, imagination is a rearrangement of what we’ve known before. Or a recollection of what was written into creation in a language we lost long ago.
If we wish to imagine and create a new future, writ large or small, we might begin by remembering the wider web of creation in which we all belong. Though we may not have adequate words for naming it. Though we have no map to follow in getting there. Though we know no strategy guaranteeing our arrival. We have the gift of imagination to lift us from the ground of what we know today and reassemble what has been in a new design of what might yet come to be.
Another phrase useful to the imagination, of just two limber words, extends like a springboard from this and every moment, offering us loft – and a release from the gravity of this day – as we reach for each other’s hands and take this winged leap, together.
Two words, calling up our wildest imagination as a true act of faith. Remembering where we’ve come from and where we hope to go, let’s let these two words lift us, together, into the open space that awaits us now:
To write from this prompt, imagine yourself and others you trust saying to one another, “I don’t know where we’re headed, but let’s find out together. Take my hand.” Notice how that imagined scenario feels — maybe exciting, maybe fearful, maybe full of worry or longing, anticipation or anxiety — and challenge yourself to imagine that it might just be what is needed. Begin with the words, “What if…..” and follow wherever they lead.
For a much longer reflection on this theme, check out my new book, Trusting Change: Finding Our Way through Personal and Global Transformation, now available online from InSpirit Bookstore and soon to be available from your local bookstore and major online booksellers in mid-September.
On June 17, you are invited to join me for my book launch event in person in St. Paul, MN and live-streamed online.