Systems thinking is a wonderful subject that I keep exploring and learning about, but there is another aspect of it that I find myself particularly interested in. As we explore the mechanical networks of our social lives and environment and societies, I wonder about the systems behind our dreams, creativity, stories, emotions, ancestral links, and subtle energies.
I love the pattern of how even the most notorious mechanics-favoring scientists and thinkers gradually widen their perception and openness to the bigger picture, yet people seem to ignore that.
Living systems thinking focuses on the potential that lies behind the structures of systems, and whenever we hear the word potential, creativity comes to mind as well.
Creativity. The ultimate force that seems to guide everything we do, yet scarcely give it credit. How sad, when everything – evolution, the biggest discoveries like penicillin, the most influential art, and the biggest blockbusters, forming a bond with another person … are all a result of the same creative force.
I wonder how imagination ties into all of this. What are its mechanisms, what is the body of its system, and how is it interlinked with all other aspects of our life? Can we use imagination to fuel our contemporary efforts and find solutions earlier? Can we reframe the heaviest of our thoughts by utilizing imagination? How are dreams formed and how do they affect our realities?
What come after living systems thinking or whole systems thinking? is imagination a system as well? Do we not categorize it as such just because we cannot grasp its complex design?
Questions for another time.
I believe that there is no big-picture thinking without imagination. Before we understand the mechanics of something, we imagine the solutions.
We form a hypothesis, and sometimes it is the imagination behind the hypothesis that is right, other times the creativity behind the actual result informs our understanding of things we perhaps did not imagine before.Science is a constant play of creativity, expanding and narrowing its boundaries, a constant flow of divergence and convergence.
In a world where convergence is favored, divergent thinking is scarce, yet crucial. Luckily, more and more fields are becoming aware of that.
But what if we pushed the divergence beyond our rational minds and expanded the possibilities beyond what we already know and understand? What if, even if just for a second, we allowed ourselves the freedom to explore beyond the known? We’ll have to narrow down our exploration anyway, so why not take a step further?
Imagination-led practices and processes already seem to be gaining traction in some areas. Psychology
is the leading one. Not only do some of the most influential figures in the field openly promote the power of imagination, but some also put so much emphasis on it that it became a crucial part of the discipline. Think Jung and his imaginal realm
or the similar concept of Henry Corbin, mundus imaginalis
. Think of the rise of art therapy
for kids, hypnosis, guided visualization
methods, mental imagery
exercises, or “Fantastic Cards”
that I mentioned in the article The Healing Powers Of Mythic Imagination
Then there is design
, an old love of mine. I will never forget the first time I set foot into a "design thinking" class and later on thinking what a waste of time it was when now I see it as the field that popularized the importance of creative problem-solving and even communicating complex concepts to a wider audience.By using analogies, metaphors, and other imaginative devices, we can help make difficult or abstract ideas more accessible and understandable to everybody. Imagination is the common language of all people, and even the more-than-human world.
All of this shows us that oftentimes going beyond the constraints of reality allows us to tap into an ultimate source of possibilities and that many times that source provides invaluable solutions for our challenges within the physical realm.
So the next time you run into a challenge, I kindly invite you to ask yourself…
What is the bigger picture?
And what is the imaginal bigger picture?
Explore the possibilities (known and unknown) before you narrow down your adventure.