Crisis of Imagination

Given all the crises we have in this world, I constantly look for the leverage points, those crises that may have more influence – and thereby deserve more of our attention – in the cascade of challenges and problems facing humanity today.

In November, here in this blog, I wrote about the “Crisis of Courage.” A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that another crisis having significant leverage is a “crisis of imagination” – our failure to dream big enough (as I mention in The Great Growing Up), to imagine more functional systems and a future that works for everyone. Then I decided to “google” the phrase, thinking it might already be out there. Boy was I surprised – 28 million links came up!



At the very top of them list was an article by Marc and Mariana Gafni with the title, you guessed it – “Crisis of Imagination” – published in April 2011. I loved the article (linked here) and started seeking out the authors. Turns out I found them right here in Northern California. Marc and I have talked via Skype and are already planning some collaborations.

As there was a striking similarity between what Marc and Mariana wrote and what I had been thinking, I offer here, with their permission, some bits from their article They open the piece with this grabber:


The greatest crisis of our lives is not economic, intellectual, or even what we usually call religious. It is a crisis of imagination. We are getting stuck on our paths because we are unable to re-imagine our lives differently than they are right now. We hold on desperately to the status quo, afraid that if we let go, we will be swept away by the torrential undercurrents of our emptiness.

They go on to cite a few bits of wisdom from various religious texts on the subject. Then they boldly assert, “Virtually every crisis at its core is a failure of imagination.” Now they have me!

They continue, “Biblical myth masters tell us that the Exodus began with a man who had a dream….Slavery ends when we can re-imagine ourselves as free men….All freedom begins with our willingness to stand and say, ‘I have a Dream!’ And even if we don’t get to the Promised Land, we may well set into motion currents of redemption that will eventually heal our world.”

For me, a highlight of the piece was the phrase — indeed a maxim: “Imagination is essential to responsibility.”

How often do we “rational” adults see imagination as core to being responsible human beings? They continue:

We need to nurture our infancy, our in-fancy, to encourage its power rather than undermine it with scoffing and ridicule. It is for this reason that we intuitively look for our children to create a better tomorrow for all of us….Children are always building imaginary realms, constructing fortresses and castles with such exquisite imaginary aptitude. Dashing around as superheroes, saving banks from robbers and the like, is the lifeblood of children.

We have long since forgotten our true nature as agents of transformation. We have forgotten that we are superheroes. Eaten away by moths, our capes are long forgotten at the backs of our closets. Birds don’t fly because they have wings, they have wings because they fly. We are what we imagine ourselves to be. The wings always come in good time. We need to reclaim our capes of holy imagination and heal our fear of flying.

I welcome comments on this and any other posts.