Category Archives: Creative Imagination

…creative imagination as “everything possible”…

“Everything that exists, even a stone, has two sides to its nature.  It fiercely maintains is own individuality, its own solidity, and yet it reaches from itself in the subtlest flow of desire.” — DH Lawrence

I live in New England.  It’s winter.  And this morning I looked out from my second floor window and saw three gray squirrels on the trunk of an oak tree.   And what I saw – as normal as it was – was fascinating:  three squirrels in a territorial game.  Up and down the tree they scampered.  First one and then the other.  Round and round they went. Over the truck and across many branches with real vitality and speed.  An exuberant, lively expression in an otherwise frozen landscape.

And, at the highest point of my fascination, when they were running without constraint — “everything possible” seemed real.  Conventional limits were irrelevant.  “Everything possible” was the un-containable outreaching of  life’s energy simply trying to satisfy itself.

Everything possible.

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…creative imagination as turning importance on and off…

The lessons of living and dying are intertwined.  The pursuit of wisdom … entails the practice of dying: … let go of issues,… possessions, …illusions, …regrets.
— Tom Owen-Towle

I don’t know about you — but for me — my interests (and pre-occupations) go on and off — for no apparent reason.  Important now, unimportant later.  In play now, off the grid later.  Total concentration followed by total disinterest.

It’s really quite bizarre.  I don’t mean to imply that none of my pre-occupations are consistently important (or unimportant) …. only that, if I chose to notice …  many things capture my imagination for a time and then flame out … all at once.  Poofft!  That singular spark of importance which I give to a topic, image, relationship, or thought … just disappears.

“Hey?…  What was that about?” I wonder.

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…creative imagination as creative insecurity…

“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.

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…creative imagination as power re-imagined…

“Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein

As we have seen over the last three blog entries: creative imagination builds the context for our sympathies and resentments by building analogies from our past (“as if” experience) — which we then use to interpret the present by “living ourselves” into them.

What we haven’t seen is how the power we have can be re-imagined — once we are willing to reclaim the belief in our significance from a new perspective.

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…creative imagination as sympathy and resentment…

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” — Helen Keller

My topic is creative imagination, but I haven’t nailed down what it is about “imagination” that makes it “creative.” Is it … that we create something from nothing? …  Well, that’s certainly part of it … but there’s more.

Since we create things by analogy (…creative imagination, part-to-whole…), we are always working with something we learned or experienced before.  So being “creative” is not entirely about “something from nothing.”

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…creative imagination as variable opinion…

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts”  – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

In legal circles, a short acronym describes the art of legal thinking.  It’s called IRAC.  It’s short for Issues, Rule, Application, Conclusion.  Lawyers use this “formula” to build a context for the characterization of a conclusion.  When used, it runs something like this:

  • The issue at hand is: Robbery.
  • The rules regarding robbery are: it’s illegal and to prove “robbery” the following criteria must be satisfied….
  • The application of the “rules” to facts would be… and
  • Therefore, my conclusion is: this particular event was a “robbery”… under the rules of law.

(Just to be clear – I’m NOT a lawyer.)  And, needless to say, most people do not think this way.

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…creative imagination as part-to-whole…

Your greatest challenge might be to learn to love yourself. — Author Unknown

Experience is a great teacher and it doesn’t lock us into any particular future.  We do that.  We lock ourselves into a particular future by virtue of our creative imagination.


If imagination is at work, how might we see it?  The following statements contradict one another; but in their contradiction, they show creative imagination at work:

  • “The past is no indication of the future.”
  • “Know the past to understand the present.”
  • “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
  • “Tomorrow holds no fear; I have seen yesterday and I love
  • “Clutching to the past leaves you too full to grasp the present.”

What’s going on here? Is every product of creative imagination a lie?  Does creative imagination put limits on our perspective?  If experience is such a great teacher, why does everyone hold such different opinions?

Let me explain.

What makes the “present” moment accessible? Past experience. But what causes the future to be different?  Creative Imagination.

Think about it…. Every perception you have about the present occurs ONLY because you have invested yourself in the idea that “Today is LIKE yesterday.”  We are constantly making the analogy that the past, present and future are understandable because they are SIMILAR.  Similarity enables understanding.  Predictability engenders trust.  And skillful creativity inspires confidence.

The things I saw yesterday are SIMILAR to the things which I might see today.  The speech that I will utter today is SIMILAR to the speech that I remember uttering yesterday.   The actions that I take right now are SIMILAR to the actions that I might take tomorrow… just, as they too are SIMILAR to actions I took long ago in the past.

And nobody’s memory is perfect.  We are constantly analogizing, comparing, and crafting associations which enable us to offer some appreciation or apprehension for whatever is going on right now.  Our web of SIMILAR associations – clustered around things that are unique, meaningful and important offers a bridge into the current moment.

And let me be clear:  Our cluster of associations has absolutely NO prior knowledge of today.

Apprehending today, by association, means that ANY appreciation we make contains imagination …. No static, mimeographic imagination could possibly understand today.  Only a creative imagination, one that cobbles together part-to-whole relations, can construct a living appreciation, an understanding which puts us inside our understanding.

I’ve made this point before: knowledge is metaphoric.  Because we believe today’s experience is LIKE yesterday’s, we are endowed with a metaphoric brush — one that can paint for us a version of what we are experiencing.  And because we creatively take part, we are invested.  We offer our belief in the metaphor by embodying it.  The metaphoric brush uses us.  The associations become us.  The colors bleed from us.

And the metaphoric “part” that we call up from the past — that part — melds with our experience of the present to create a “whole” — a new whole which we believe, understand and trust.

Part-to-whole.  Discovering ourselves.

But logically, the relation is part-to-part.  This part from the past references this part in the present.  But it doesn’t work that way.  That would leave us out.  Part-to-part leaves us unable to discover ourselves.  Too divested.  Too analytic.

It’s part-to-whole.  This part melds with that part and a new whole is perceived.  Why?  Because the current moment is whole and we need to feel our wholeness in that moment.  So that part from the past melds with this part in the present –putting us inside it.  And as we move forward from moment to moment, we become an ever-changing Russian Doll.  Part nests within whole, which nests within part, melding ourselves over and over into a larger and ever more layered whole.

Part-to-whole.   Made anew.  Connected and blest.   A living appreciation. 

That’s creative imagination at work.  Reinvigorating us moment to moment with that newness of discovery — not only for who we are now, but who we choose to become.  The metaphoric brush paints our future in the present by crafting new and different analogies from the past.  We can make choices.  And I’ll talk about that later.


“Your greatest challenge might be to learn to love yourself.”  How true.  We would do well to bring love into the picture. Be challenged to love the metaphors you create.

Thanks for listening!