A while ago, a good friend sent me a poem, by Diane Di Prima, called Rant. In that poem, she said (many things, but also) something that really stood out to me.
"THE ONLY WAR THAT MATTERS IS THE WAR AGAINST THE IMAGINATION"
So what is the War Against The Imagination?
Let's start with the less romantic faces of this war. It is subtle, and many of its soldiers are harmless on their own. They are often human-permitted depletions rather than villains. Mineral depletion in our soil, then food, then bodies, which leads to depleted energy and health. A painfully loud sound here (sirens wailing), a glaring light there (blinding high-beams), the disappearance of art from our school systems. Rent hikes that drive writers, musicians, and artists out of the cities and cultural hubs until the new things you see appearing in your environment have been created simply to influence rather than catalyze you. Lack of quiet spaces, demands & expectations that the vast majority of regular people will overwork. That their 'free time' will be spent catching up on maintaining the basic necessities of a functioning life (do the laundry, gather the food, clean the objects). You want to see people you love, read a book, or do something just for your own health or pleasure? Give up some sleep! Work is life and life is work. Only a small amount of us find ways to do what we love and escape this cycle.
We are constantly nudged by systems we can see, but don’t truly perceive. Advertising systems, lighting systems, debt networks feeding on overpriced, declining educational institutions, dangerous toxic waste disposal systems, bad health propaganda systems, chemicals in everything, and noise everywhere. The exterior world invades our inner worlds. Through the senses and the senseless systems, designed to direct us, but not to serve us. Our health is compromised, and quiet time to think is something we must fight for, with varying levels of success, depending largely on a combination of privilege and will. Constant interruptions and disturbances are the norms. What used to be an interrogation, befuddlement, and brainwashing technique (a constant barrage of sensory stimulation) is now an average lifestyle, adapted en mass and applied to millions.
This is a hostile takeover of our inner worlds. And there is no one villain or conspiracy to blame. We ourselves fight on both sides of this war. We ourselves are often trading in our inner worlds by the decisions we do not make, and the actions we do not take.
An ad plays on the radio. Instead of turning it off and thinking of something fascinating, perhaps I simply allow it. It’s so easy. And another poem dies. A book idea that could have appeared after a few moments of quiet contemplation will never be. A supportive letter written to a friend in need is not written. Of course, we can’t be 'on' all the time. But we also can’t be plugged in all the time. The sensory clutter contaminates our thought-spaces. One involuntary soundscape at a time, one Times Square at a time, one lack of privacy at a time. Individuals are swallowed into systems that do not allow for or support our individuality. Our inner worlds are in dire need of nurturing and contemplation. There must be space for them to evolve. There must be time for synthesis.
But enough of that gloom.
How can we win?
Every single choice we make that encourages and allows any form of art to be made.
Any time we make room for inspiration, revel in beauty, encourage interesting mistakes, or create anything, we are staking out the terrain for the Imagination to inhabit. We are its defenders. Its protectors.
When we make room for our inner worlds in the outer world, we generate a reality where we have more of a right to exist. I'm not talking about our bodies. This is about our selves.
Every poem, every art show, every museum and library, every harmony you sing with a friend, every wall in your house with a handmade picture on it... these are all lanterns for selves, safe harbors for perception, where phenomenological magic can emerge, and be reminded that it has permission to exist.
Artwork used to celebrate kings, historic moments, royals, the champions of commerce and celebrity. But I have decided it is time to honor new heroes. Those conduits between the collective unconscious and the waking world. Those weavers of concept and theory. Those who believe in and support the arts and all kinds of makers, and those who make ideas real by letting them rest in their minds’ rooms. You.
You. The lantern-bearers and the fire-gazers. The sybils and muses. Those who look into, through, and beyond.
I have decided to create a work of art that celebrates the protectors of the Imagination and the purveyors of portals to our inner worlds. Every single patron, everyone who offers encouragement or partakes of emerging culture is acting on the side of Imagination. Because you are creating an expansion upon the safe space for my inner world to emerge. I am eternally grateful for this belief. And I hope I can do the same for you. That is why every single patron will appear in my painting. And this is why the art show I will build around this piece will be all about the War Against The Imagination. This is the subject of the painting you are helping me create.
If you are a patron and have not sent me a photo of yourself yet, you can do so through our patron-only, private page, HERE.
If you are not yet a patron, it is not too late to be in this painting. You can join the project HERE.
"bring yr self home to yrself, enter the garden
the guy at the gate w/ the flaming sword is yrself
the war is the war for the human imagination
and no one can fight it but you/ & no one can fight it for you
The imagination is not only holy, it is precise
it is not only fierce, it is practical
men die every day for the lack of it,
it is vast & elegant"
- Diane Di Prima, 1985
Thank you for being here.
Let's really BE here.
Whenever we can.