Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein
I am fascinated by prophets – both ancient and contemporary. The ancient ones such as Isaiah had the ability to both warn of danger and demise AND to spin beautiful visions of the world the way it “ought” to be. The 11th chapter of Isaiah presents a particularly wondrous description of a world at peace. In this world, equality and safety mark this “peaceable kingdom” that is led by a wise master. Predator lies down with prey and on this “holy mountain” all suffering and pain are erased. Too bad I’ve never seen a contemporary prophet on a street corner in San Francisco preaching this! Contemporary prophets are definitely all doom and damnation and “get ready, the end is near!”
Isaiah, in the midst of the reign of a bad king and threatening neighbors, imagines another world is possible.
This is an act of amazing hope and faith given his situation and these words will carry the Hebrew people forward through many trials and tribulations over the centuries. Isaiah’s wonderful poetry still speaks to us today and helps us to imagine our way into a better future.
This particular vision of Isaiah has also been rendered into many, many paintings, choral works, novels, and even websites filled with educational toys for children. I believe that this enduring vision of a world at peace continues to inspire us because it is still so incredibly relevant.
Imagination, according to wikipedia, “is the ability to form new images and sensations that are not perceived through sight, hearing, or other senses. Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and the learning process.”
Einstein knew this very well. He often spoke of the role of imagination in his thinking. He did not simply do equations to come to the theory of relativity. He imagined it and some believe it came to him through his dreams. This now cornerstone idea in science was developed because Einstein was a creative and imaginative person willing to “prove out” his visions.
This ability to imagine may also be fundamental to our humanity. New research has shown that a lack of imagination in older adults may be linked to declining memory and makes it more difficult for us to imagine the future as we age because we cannot fully recollect the past. This is one reason that is so important to be part of a community that can “stand in the gap” when our own imaginations fail. Churches are excellent places for this to happen – especially as we age.
Finally, if we can imagine that another world is possible, how will that vision change our current behavior? Imagining a world at peace can – and ought to – help us to be peacemakers every day in our work, in our families, neighborhoods, and communities. Such a vision holds us accountable in our actions. How are you engaged in creating a “holy mountain” in your own life – a place of safety, peace, and trust? Can you see the “holy mountain?” if only for an instant? If you can imagine it, and I can imagine it, and finally if we can all imagine it together, then it can be so.