The Holistic Imagination

Spatial awareness is not my strong point.  When I was taking driving lessons, my driving teacher thought I seemed confident as I drove out, and would master the whole thing in a few lessons.

How wrong he was!

I remember the moment he despaired of the way I tried to turn the car around, bashing into everything in sight if he didn’t stop me.  He realised then that I didn’t have a clue what happened to the back of the car when I was turning the front around. Nor did I have a clue what was going on around me. He brought two toy cars to the next lesson, and tried to show me the principle of how to understand what was happening to the whole car when I turned around, rather than the bit in the front.

I have to admit that I was such a poor student that the whole thing was traumatic, and after finally passing the test on the seventh go, I gave up driving for good.  I couldn’t bear to risk killing someone through my negligence.

I’ve just told this story to a male friend of mine.  His mind boggled at how I could possibly not know what the back of my car was doing. Was this a woman thing?

Just think Wolf of Wall Street

In fact, almost everyone, with the exception of people like me at the low end of the spatial spectrum, knows how to stay aware of where the back of the car is, where the other cars are and what the road conditions and weather conditions are. Yet most of us have poor spatial awareness when it comes to knowing what is happening to us as a whole–and to the people around us– when our mind confidently leads us forward in our life telling us what we want and what we need to do to get this.

Just think Wolf of Wall Street for an extreme picture of this.

This is where the holistic imagination comes in.

The Greeks Got This Right

Here’s the thing.  When you want a turning point and a new beginning in life, you need to take account of the whole person that you are.  The Greeks got this right. They talked of health as having to do not only with the balance of mind, emotion, body and spirit, but also with our relationship to our physical environment and to our social environment. Hippocrates believed that you needed to know how the wind was blowing to diagnose what was wrong with a person. You couldn’t have good health without good ecology and good politics.

The same is true of your imagination. It is time to reclaim our imagination, and our beliefs of who we are and where we are going, so that they represent the whole person. And remember that the whole person is not in a vacuum, but is part of the world.

Consciousness is not in my mind. It is in my relationship with the world. And of course that is true of my imagination.

Interbeing and Ubuntu

When I understand that, I understand that where I need to go is not just about me, but about me in relationship to everything that I am part of and that is part of me, what the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls Interbeing, or what Nelson Mandala talked about as Ubuntu, or I am because you are.

If I fully acknowledge that I can’t have a good life without good ecology and good politics, then my imagination can be liberated from its narrow boundaries and take its rightful place in the world.

And the world can take its rightful place in my imagination.