“Our dreams must be stronger than our memories. We must be pulled by our dreams, rather than pushed by our memories.” — Jesse Jackson
Trust and engagement are very similar to memory’s ‘call-up and select’ and imagination’s ‘hold and contain.’ I introduced this distinction in my last blog as a way to understand the difference between memory and imagination. Hopefully, this distinction is both memorable and easy to understand.
What I want cover in this post is the how we come to harness memory and imagination when ever we exercise trust and engagement. We call up and select something which is a concern, we then hold and contain our feelings about that concern. In so, doing we put value into our trust and engagement.
Let’s start with an example: Jack wants a promotion. He’s been working on a major project that has gone very well. He’s planning to approach his boss since he is up for his annual review. Jack faces a some hurdles: 1. How to ask? 2. What to say when he does ask? 3. And how to live with the uncertainty of not knowing.
All three of those require trust and engagement. ‘How to ask’ requires him to trust the way that he approaches his boss. This is a combination of knowing both himself and his boss. Deciding’ what to say’ requires Jack to have thought about alternative approaches and the potential tradeoffs associated with each approach. And again, Jack must both “know” and “trust” himself, no matter which approach he takes. Finally, learning ‘how to live with the uncertainty of not knowing,’ requires Jack to find the strength to accept whatever happens. Even to begin this process, Jack must both trust in and engage with himself otherwise he cannot move forward.
So what does this have to do with memory and imagination? Well, it all hangs on that question of faithfulness: how faithful is our “imagistic” imagination to what is really important to us?
If Jack hangs everything on his recollection of similar past events, he may be unaware of how the current situation is both similar and different from the past. So putting total dependence on the past might not be wise. Equally, if Jack hangs everything on the power of his imagination, he may find himself rudely mistaken. Either he will block himself from running headlong with his desire, or he will give himself over to a weakly formulated plan that does not consider other points of view. So what’s Jack to do?
The power of engaged discernment is ‘calling-up and selecting’ while at the same time ‘holding and containing’ the result you want to see. If imagination goes “forty ways to Sunday,” then let it — provided of course that Sunday is where you want to end up. It’s less about being right, or eliminating all competing possibilities, than it is about “imagistically” present to what you want. Even the ultimate test of “accepting whatever happens” must leave you in a position of trust and engagement. Your “imagistic” imagination must know that your meeting on Sunday — even without that one thing that desperately you want — will be OK. Just think, how much strife could be alleviated if everyone knew that “the meeting on Sunday” would be just fine, even if the things they desperately hoped for fail to materialize.
So how faithful is our “imagistic” imagination to what is really important to us? That deep well of possibilities always has a new beginning, always has a new place from which to start. And accessing that place with courage, and with a thoughtful “attunement” for all that is at stake, emboldens us to make a difference and be different. Not that doing that is easy. None of this is easy. But we can always be discerning. Thanks for listening.