First a quote from Norman Fischer:

We now are so wedded to our objective, scientific, materialistic view of reality, which is a view and a philosophy, but we just take it to be – it’s real. And the imagination, we think is the opposite of this. It’s fantasy; it’s not real. We almost define the imagination as being what’s not real. It’s an opposite, right? Opposite is imagination on the one hand, reality on the other hand. That’s how we look at it.

… No. We make reality, in part, with our imaginations. And when we imagine a reality that doesn’t include the imagination, that itself if is an imaginative decision.

We need imagination to deepen and richen the feeling of what’s real.

All creativity, even technological innovation comes from the imagination. If there’s no imagination, the world is crushingly one-dimensional. Too matter of fact; not enough color and fervor. Every human ideal, like love, or the idea of justice, comes from the imagination. If we have no imagination, the world is too bleak. You can’t live it.

-Excerpt from Norman Fischer’s talk on imagination to the Garrison Institute, “Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path,” (derived, in part, from his book The World Could Be Otherwise)
via Everyday Zen podcast: July 18, 2020.

This is the function of art and the purpose of artists in society. To imagine what isn’t and thread it through just enough of the familiar that audiences can accept the truth it exposes as believable.

This is why art should be –

Innovative or foreign enough to delight us – some level above or beyond reality as we know it

Not safe – risky enough to challenge or scare us – proof of imagination

Where we relate are the emotions: the universal feelings common across humanity – anger, contempt, disgust, enjoyment, fear, sadness, surprise.

What summons the emotional response varies – I may not know why that object or incident made you cry but I know what crying feels like.

We can reimagine the past – a la Hamilton racially diverse revolution or Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood. Or we can imagine the past through fresh eyes (Little Women, Harriet) or imagine the present through a specifically challenged POV.

We can imagine the future as a warning – the dystopia where we are heading if we don’t wise up and change our ways. Or we can imagine the world as we’d rather it be – with more romance and poetic justice, where the bad guys pay for their crimes, the underdogs overcome the bullies and everyone who wants to gets to play – not just the young, skinny, rich, and pretty – so no one has to sit on the sidelines under a joy-shattering mountain of rejection.

What kind of reality are you making? -ag