The imagination is the power of the mind to form images and ideas. It is the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
By imagining a possible future, we can develop foresight. This helps us think about where we are going in our individual and collective lives. It also helps us design creative responses to challenges.
The vision we create for our future should touch us emotionally. It should ‘move’ us. Emotion is the energy that drives action. When a vision for the future stirs us emotionally it is more likely that we will take the action to make the vision a reality.
William Blake was an English poet, painter and printmaker. His work and achievements were largely unrecognised during his lifetime, although he is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the romantic age.
Despite his hostility to the Church of England, Blake revered the bible and drew inspiration from it all his life. The human imagination was, for Blake, the ‘body of god’. He was also influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions.
On the day of his death, Blake worked feverishly on the engravings he had been commissioned to do for Dante’s Divine Comedy. After a time, he ceased his labours and lay his work down. Blake turned to his wife, who was in tears by his bedside and cried, “Stay Kate! Keep just as you are – I will draw your portrait – for you have ever been an angel to me.” When he completed this, his last work, which has since been lost, he began to sing hymns and verses. At six that evening, just after promising his wife that he would always be with her, Blake died. A female lodger in the house, who was present at his passing, reported, “I have been at the death, not of a man, but a blessed angel”.
George Richmond gives this account of Blake’s death: “He died, in a most glorious manner. He said he was going to that Country he had all his life wished to see and expressed himself happy, hoping for salvation through Jesus Christ – Just before he died his countenance became fair. His eyes brighten’d and he burst out singing of the things he saw in heaven”.
Following his death, Catherine reported being regularly visited by Blake’s spirit. She continued to sell his works but never finalised a business transaction without first “consulting Mr. Blake”. On the day of her death, in October 1831, she remained as calm and cheerful as her husband had been and called out to him, to say she was coming to him, as if he were only in the next room. She was buried with Blake in a grave that has since been lost and forgotten, with only a stone nearby to mark their presence.
The death of William Blake shows how the imagination can see possibilities even in death. Even where there seems little hope, when we use our imagination, we can see there are always possibilities present.
There is a saying that ‘What comes before how’. What does this mean? It means that before thinking about how to do something, or whether it is even possible, we must first think about what we want to do. We may also need to consider why we want to do, what we want to do! The how of achieving something comes later.
When thinking about the kind of future you would like to create, ask: What do I want to happen? What kind of future do I want to create?
When we are imagining future possibilities there are two phases we go through.
The first is the creative phase. In this phase we come up with as many different ideas and possibilities as we can. Then in the editing phase we evaluate and choose which visions to pursue.
Try imagining your life in the future. Try imagining the world in the future. The future is not just something that arrives from an alien planet but is something that we co-create together. We have influence over what emerges.
Take a few moments to visualise what future you wish to see emerge. You could draw or paint whatever images come to mind. You might also like to write down whatever visions you see.