The Boundaries of the Imagination

Are there any?

That’s what a recent weekend conference at The Jung Center on Montrose in the Museum District here in Houston explored. What did we come up with? Jury’s still out.

The Boundaries of the Imagination

I’ve been to only a couple of seminars at The Jung Center over the years and, coincidentally, both had to do with imagination as it relates to imagery and creativity.

Both were also moderated by my friend, Felix Scardino, author of The Pebble and the Canyon.

Now, I’m not a therapist nor do I have that type of background, although I have spent years in the advertising and creative industry so, I suppose, there are some who would say I’ve been in therapy all these years!

This special summer conference, The Boundaries of the Imagination, intrigued me.

When I reviewed the list of speakers for this weekend conference, I’ll admit to not knowing any of them. Yet, I anticipated the experience, the topics. I also assumed I would be in the minority; I am not a therapist or a psychologist. I’m just a curious creative.

Friday night began with a lecture from Jeffrey Kripal, PhD, past chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. His lecture, “When the Imagined Is Not Imaginary,” seemed to center on the evolutionary goal of imagination. Quite extraordinary.

Though it was a very thoughtful discussion, it really got down into the “imaginary weeds” for this listener. When Jeffrey mentioned the term “imaginal,” he went on to define it according to one Mr. Frederick Myers as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

According to Frederick Myers, imaginal is defined as “imagination on spiritual steroids.”

HELLO!  Spiritual steroids? I’m not sure what the hell that means but it grabbed my attention.

Saturday morning’s session, “The Street of Heaven Was as Glass,” was a conversation between Jay Wehnert (right, below) of Intuitive Eye, his arts organization founded in 2011, and Vanzant Driver (left, below), a Houston-based artist whose work  is included in The Menil Collection.

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This conversation was a highlight for me personally just to listen and observe. One of the observations from Vanzant really touched my spirit – “Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity.”

DAMN!

“I can’t wait to inspire somebody,” Vanzant said. “This should be what gets you up everyday.”

Inspiration is the medicine for the soul and creativity – Vanzant Driver

Since different attendees would no doubt mention other things that got their attention, I won’t attempt to cover everything from that weekend. My thoughts and impressions are my own. So are my dreams and my imagination.

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There will also be other blog posts, I’m sure.

As a photog-hobbyist, I couldn’t help but capture one of my conference colleagues chatting with Vanzant about her artwork in abstract visualization (I think that’s what she called it). Her paintings are hanging in back of her and Vanzant.

According to Vanzant, the philosopher, “the most powerful things in the universe are things you can’t see.”

We sometimes forget this. Hmmm, let me rephrase that . . . we rarely remember this!

 

Before we wound up our weekend conference, I participated in one last exercise. I played in the sand. Well, I had my own sand trap, er, tray. I even got to select as many toys, er, symbols, as I could carry.

But before that, I closed my eyes and “became one with the sand.” I moved my hands around the sand and just had fun, like the little kid inside me did many years ago, both on Lake Charles (LA) and Galveston beaches.

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“Playing in the Imagination” was what we did under the watchful eyes of Michele Lees, a depth psychotherapist in private practice in Houston with emphasis and training in Jungian psychology. And, evidently, one helluva sand castle builder!

Each one of the objects in my sand tray above represented something to me; some of them really did “call out to me” to be chosen, just as Michelle advised they would.

In case you can’t quite make it out, that is indeed a sleigh sitting within the branches of the Christmas tree . . . on a beach next to a treasure chest near a beached boat. The symbolism I was feeling that Sunday morning was both of fond memories and sadness (note the half buried Eiffel Tower near the voodoo doll), and, well, use your imagination to figure out the rest.

The entire weekend was like nothing I had experienced before. Not being a therapist, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Being of the creative bent, I anticipated exploring my imagination in ways I had not, uh, imagined before.

Presenters to 2016 Summer Conference at Jung Center

Each one of the “speakers, therapists, authors, experts” were enlightening and, dare I say, imaginative. If you get the chance to hear one of these folks speak or present, go for it.

Have we been underestimating the power and reach of the imagination? Perhaps.

It is my firm belief that creativity is entrenched in our imagination. In fact, my favorite definition of imagination is “intelligence having fun.”

Yet, is imagination a location, an experience, a physical phenomenon? What is, as the brochure talking about this conference asks, its hidden power in a culture that tends to understand imagination as the opposite of reality?

Are there boundaries of imagination? If so, how many and are they truly discernible? What are the possibilities in exploring them and what do we risk?

What if we come to understand that imagination is reality?

What then?

Then, my friends, we come to grips with our emotions and, when we’re ready, if we truly are, we take another trek into the vast landscape of our own imagination to explore.

But be cautious. Rational thought may be cast aside; symbolism may take over. Creativity may be awakened. A new masterpiece may be unfolding right before your eyes.

Capture it, and enjoy . . . before it goes poof!

 

Editors Note: Those of you wanting to see Jay & Vanzant’s conversation can view it on YouTube.

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Creativity Tip #7: Control Freaks Not Welcome!

Creativity. We can play with it. We can enjoy it. We can experience it. We just can’t – and shouldn’t – control it. But we want to!

Individuals love to control things. That’s usually when we get into trouble. Creativity doesn’t respond well to control. In fact, when we try to control everything, we stifle creativity.

Shame on us! We should know better, but some of us don’t.

As noted in a previous Creativity Tip, one doesn’t manage creativity (let alone control it); one manages for creativity.

Creativity, somewhat like a child, flourishes in an environment that encourages innovative thought – and the time in which to do it. Nobody gets ahead in a scenario that screams “I need a creative idea and I need it in five minutes, and, oh yeah, it better be a damn good one!” Sadly, that’s an environment that does exist. It probably hails from a mindset of fast thinking – most of the time.

Men in general, research suggests, tend to have this mindset; they feel they need to make decisions instantly. Women, not so much.

Here’s where we tend to get into trouble. By putting an unrealistic time parameter on devising a “creative” idea (I’m not talking about brainstorming, here), one tries to control the creative process. The opposite is usually the result. Creativity is stifled.

What happened to allotting time for quiet, contemplative thinking? Now, I’m not talking about going into a room, sitting in the corner and contemplating one’s naval for two hours. Sometimes our “quiet time” is no more than 30-minutes (if not less). Still, without this time to gather one’s thoughts and even put them in some sort of context, we’re short circuiting our creative process, and the end result.

Women, in general, are better at this contemplative thinking because they tend to mull things over more than men do. Now, obviously, one size does not fit all. I know several men and women who would turn these findings on their head. I, too, don’t usually make instant decisions, but it depends upon what I’m deciding.

When we slow down the fast thinking and spend more time in the contemplative state, our creativity will flourish and the end results will be much better.

But, do we have the courage to do that?

Creativity Tip #41

First things first.

This splash of color should lift your creative spirits.

 iStock_000002018808Medium If not, check your pulse.

Then, check out these two quotes I found in my archives. They’re quite illuminating and pertinent, especially when our attitude doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

“Your mood doesn’t really matter. Some of the best creative work gets done on the days when you feel that everything you’re doing is just plain junk,” said Julia Cameron, 19th century photographer.

Then there’s this from renowned author John Updike —

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.”

So where do you fall?

If you don’t care, then maybe it doesn’t matter. If you do care, consider yourself reassured.