“To hope — to open one’s anticipations to the possibility of fulfillment in the future–is to expose oneself to further anxiety.” — Samuel J. Warner
Of all our endowments, creative imagination is the least “secure.” Conscience, independent will, and awareness (the other three) are more dependable; at least in the claims they make upon our thoughts and feelings. But creative imagination?!? … it’s the quicksilver of insecurity – an intangible means of transportation to worlds far away, long ago, and immediately present. No wonder we are often baffled by the associations we make – almost without even trying.
As I have described over this series of blogs, creative imagination builds the context for our sympathies and resentments by building “just-like” analogies from the past. And because things are “just-like” something we experienced before, they give us confidence and security. We use these analogies to interpret the present moment … by “living ourselves” into them.
The problem, of course, is that security part. We build our sympathies and resentments around expectations… and around the “thinking which happens without thinking” (intuition and interpretation) — and that “thinking without thinking” in effect — becomes the train of our imagination.
And … once that train leaves the station, our attention is focused on safeguarding our security … by confirming what we expect. We somehow can’t help ourselves. Better to have the devil we know, than the one we don’t — right?
Let’s look at an example:
David’s hoping for a promotion or a move to another position in the same company. He’s put in his application, took the interview, and told his boss. He felt his skills could be better used and he was willing to put in the effort to see what might happen.
To his surprise, he got two “potential” offers:
Old job, new duties, no raise (and the same boss)
New job, supervisory skills, a good raise (and a new boss)
First: the boss. David had several resentments with his current boss. Poor delegation, overly protective, did not listen well. And the new boss?… well, he was just hard to figure out. He heard different things from different people. David thought he would be taking a risk — too much unknown.
David also did not know if he was “ready” for supervisory work. Most of his friends were line workers. All of his earlier jobs were pretty straight forward — a limited amount of judgement. David could feel a creeping sense of insecurity — if somebody else had to agree with his judgments, then how was that going to work? David feared winding up as “monkey in the middle” — line workers not agreeing with him and then his boss not agreeing with him either. David wasn’t sure he could hand that much negotiating.
I think you get the idea.
It’s hard to get away from imaginative leaps that our experience offers. Once burned, twice shy. There is a self-fulfilling “stickiness” around what feels safe because — it’s predictable. And that’s part of what imagination does, it fills in the blanks and creates a space that we can identify with.
But there is a BIG difference between filling in the blanks with certainty and filling them with the openness of creative possibility. When we “fill in the blanks” we are far from certain, and we resist letting them stay open. Our sense of certainty replaces the blanks, often without our ever being awareness.
So what’s going on here? Imagination is neither certain nor empty (although we can disparage it as if it were empty) – rather – imagination is an opening, one that requires an opening from us. And that’s what creative insecurity is about – being neither certain nor empty regarding how things turn out. We must be creative with our insecurity.
David is half-way to certainty. His need for security will limit his options. The old boss will always be the same and the new boss will always be unfathomable. That is … until the new boss is not. Funny how that works. It’s all one way until suddenly it’s not. Imagination feeds our certainty. And our need for certainty eventually … overwhelms our hope. If we let it.
Samuel J. Warner said hope opens our “anticipations to the possibility of fulfillment.” Can we be uncertain enough, to make use of creative insecurity? Quite a test – right?
Thanks for listening!