From What Is To What If (A Book Review)

How do you think about the future in regard to climate change? If it presents you with gloomy visions of extreme weather, resource scarcity, and destruction of animals, land, water, and air, then you need to read Rob Hopkins‘ book From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create The Future We Want.

This book is all about using imagination to design a better future for the people and the planet. Each chapter contains several uplifting examples of people all over the world who are using ingenuity and imagination to bring about positive, hopeful changes.

The chapter titles are all questions: What If We Took Play Seriously?, What If We Considered Imagination Vital to Our Health?, What If We Followed Nature’s Lead?, What If We Fought Back to Reclaim Our Attention?, What If School Nurtured Young Imaginations?, What If We Became Better Storytellers?, What If We Started Asking Better Questions?, What If Our Leaders Prioritised the Cultivation of Imagination?, and What If All This Came to Pass?

I particularly agreed with the author on the importance of liberal arts in education and thought the chapters on rethinking education and reclaiming attention were inspiring. Included within these chapters are a lot of statistics and studies that show how much is lost when art, music, drama, dance, etc., are removed from education. You will read about how our obsession with screens and fast-paced living has dulled our minds, limited our attention, and diminished critical and creative thinking skills.

And yet, even in the face of these dismal facts, Hopkins shares many stories of people who have developed schools that encourage artistic expression, learning, and creative thought. In these places young people are thriving.

In the chapter on considering imagination vital to health, we learn that poverty can be a factor in limiting attention, memory, and the development of imagination while increasing the chance of mental illness. But also included are examples of how imaginative, artistic engagement is a form of therapy that can help people with mental illnesses to heal.

There was such a happy story in the chapter about asking better questions: of how a community transformed a dreary bus turning circle into a village green for a day complete with flowers, music, dancing, art, and food just to spark the community’s imagination and get them thinking about how things could be different.

And that’s what this book is about, really. It’s about how things could be different if we think differently–both now and in the future. Maybe what we think is impossible is, in fact, possible if we collectively use our imaginations, activate our creativity, and think generatively about everything from play and storytelling to local food security and community gathering places. I highly recommend you read From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create The Future We Want. I guarantee that it will galvanize you into thinking in a different and more positive way about the future.

Day 22: Transition Tidbits

IMG_3243

So many people I know are in transition right now, including yours truly. What I’ve experienced and know is that while you’re in it, emotions are raw, negative thoughts can overwhelm, loneliness and fear live close by, and the questions about self-worth, purpose and future beg for your attention.

You might feel like you live in a dark place, as if you’re a seed in the ground, lying as if dead, solitary and useless. Nothing is happening! What’s the point of anything? Where are my people? Am I the only one?

If you’ve been through a transition or two in your life, you know the discomfort and misery associated with these seasons. The little glimmer of hope is: it’s just a season. There will be a close to this chapter and another one beginning. Here a couple things that are helping me through my own transition.

1. Dig Deep. While you’re here, you might as well quit ignoring the really important soul-searching you need to do. Explore the questions. Live the questions, as this poet said so eloquently on Goodreads.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Sit with those words and live the questions. Live the tears, the disappointment, the hurt when friends distance themselves from you because they don’t get it, Think about what really matters to you, who are the people you care about and who care about you. You are grieving what was, what is lost.

AC5CB502-AD65-494D-95FB-3F6FA1854C8C

2. Reach out. Some days will feel like too much, which is why we all need people to help us through. Reach out to the people who love you: your spouse or partner, your parent, your friend. Let them listen, share their stories, walk with you through this.

073043A1-0AC7-47C0-ADDC-ACFD3CF32ADD

3. Give of yourself. On the flip side, give through your hurt. Invite someone to your place for coffee or dinner, help them with a project–basically, do something for someone else. It feels so good to give to another. Your suffering will be alleviated when you do this and you will strengthen the relationship with a person you love.

4. Be creative. As often as you can, build creativity into your life. You might have some open spaces in your schedule to pick up an instrument you’ve been meaning to practice, dust off your bookshelf and read the books you’ve accumulated, return to a hobby or craft that used to bring you enjoyment or try something new. Plant a small herb or flower garden or an indoor window box garden. With Youtube, you can honestly find out how to do just about anything.

5. Dream and plan. Also, take time to dream and plan. Take the limits off as you write your dreams and make plans to move toward them. Transition may be extremely disorienting and difficult, but now is the time that you will find new inspiration, new ideas and bursts of creativity. Don’t miss these opportunities! Don’t settle!

6. Act on it. As the ideas come to you, find a real way to bring them to life. You might change your career trajectory, you might launch a business, you might make many new friends, you might write a book, get into visual art, start building things, develop a passion for cooking, or learn how to DIY just about anything.

You still have a life with the potential for growth in every way possible. You will make it through. Be kind to yourself. You are on a journey that is unique to you. Today is full of wonder and discovery, if you keep your eyes open.

Here are a few book titles that may assist you on your journey:

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

 

Day 12: New Book, Old Movie

On Tuesday, while eating lunch with my friend, I brought up the subject of transition. We discussed the discomfort, the unknowing, the misgivings and the reinterpretation and reinvention our own identities as we launch into the unfamiliar.

We all know we can’t progress or grow without transition. It’s necessary for life. But some days, the determination to take on the challenges, the exhilaration of the new, the anticipation of our destination fade into oblivion and we feel exposed, afraid, alone and are certain we’ve made a terrible mistake. Couldn’t we return to our old shell, our old nest, even if it was a bit too small?

That was me today. All the gremlins came back with a vengeance. All the things I need to learn and accomplish had me paralyzed. I couldn’t think clearly and decide on which tasks to tackle. After our music practice, I snuck up to bed for a nap, feeling guilty that I hadn’t really done much. Exhaustion weighed me down, so I slept for a half hour.

When I woke, I cracked open Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir and read “Read this Introduction”. I’m so glad I listened and read it. She explains that memoir isn’t linear, isn’t clean-cut and doesn’t gloss over the minutiae of life. Instead, it lingers on the tiny details beneath the surface.

And she shared some words which lifted me out of my overwhelm and took me downstairs to make brownies for the kids and coconut lime rice because I’d craved it all week.

“Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect. It’s not a diet to become skinny, but a relaxation into the fat of our lives. Often without realizing it, we are on a quest, a search for meaning. What does our time on this earth add up to?” (p.xxi)

Alan seemed to need a bit of cheering up today too, so we made Margaritas to go with the blackened portobellos, grilled chicken (for him and the boys), salad, delicata squash and the rice. After our candlelit dinner of yumminess, we cleaned up and watched The Corpse Bride which I had never watched. What an interesting, sensitive, dark and sweet tale. When the movie finished, we watched all the extra features about the making of the film. We were floored as we took in the amount of work and attention to detail, patience and level of excellence that was necessary for the film. Our spirits were lifted and I, for one, felt like my personal challenges were actually not as daunting as I imagined earlier in the day.

What is inspiring you this week?

A4485664-FE7C-4E1E-A5F2-3063F549DCF8