Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. – Albert Einstein
To imagine is to sing a melody using only thoughts. It is a stunning rise and fall of possibility which flows from the very core of one’s soul. An utterance not simply undulating willy-nilly here and there, but rather, a sacred tune of the highest importance that nobody else can hear. Once the vibration of inspiration wanes in the imagination, the mundane reality of an imperfect world returns.
The shortcomings of an unfair existence dull the spirit which once soared with new ideas and different perspectives. The trauma of loss and the insurmountable grief that can accompany a life wear down the ability to dream and have hope. The fragile times of calm and serenity can all change in an instant. Thinking about what may happen is not always a welcoming journey. Anxiety and fear are both part of the visualization that can exist inside the psyche.
Memory is intrinsically linked to imagination. The recollections of loved ones gone from our world are only possible through these two holy gifts. Judaism teaches us to use the memories of those no longer with us to live in a more meaningful way. We imagine that they are guiding us, teaching us, and watching over us even as their physical bodies are no more. We incline our souls to hear their voices reverberate even without them there. As we imagine them still a part of us, we use the thought of them as our inspiration.
Inspiration is elusive, like a bird that flies into an open window but for a moment. As it perches on the sill ready to unleash a sonorous croon, it is not known by us from whence it came, or to where it will go.
All that is known is the beauty of its song and how we must savor the blessing of being able to hear it, even for an instant. Just as soon as it came, it is gone. The memories of our loved ones are like songbirds which sing together harmoniously deep within our hearts. Our imagination is crucial to keep their beloved sounds flowing.
Imagination uses memories learned from the past to help shape the future. Pained minds can concoct manifestos of slaughter and destruction, while sound minds imagine the world without such things. We learn our greatest lessons in imagination from those who do it best. The jazz pianist weaving a complex story never before told. The Priest, Imam or the Rabbi, sharing a vision of a better world in which no one has yet lived. The curious child, dozing off while listening to tales of fantasy and lore, ready to enter into the land of dreams.
If humanity is to fully move past the throes of primality and into the spheres of higher understanding, it can never lose its ability to imagine nor its ability to dream. It would seem impossible for a world filled with so much turmoil to also be the source of infinite holy beauty. However, in the original design of creation, the void of goodness needed to exist in order for goodness to be. Does this mean that God is responsible for the absence of decency and fairness, just as God is responsible for the magnificent divinity of life?
I believe more readily in a God without absolute power that loves justice, than an all-powerful God that despises it.
The future and perpetuation of creation is dependent on the imagination of humanity being used for positive change. The purpose of our existence is not to rely solely on God, but to challenge ourselves to help create a more just reality using the godliness we all possess in the sacred ability to dream. This Shabbat, let your mind wander from the deepest crevasses of consciousness to the loftiest heights of fantasy. Envision a world with more compassion, justice, and love. The idyllic world is closer than we think. We just need to imagine it is possible.
Cantorial Soloist Jake Harris
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton