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Imagination Workshops and the World at Large: Part 1

Society has a critical need to ignite and cultivate imagination as the origin of all ideation, inspiration, invention and innovation.

My mother used to say, “Do not generalize for oversimplification can be incorrect and upsetting.” While she did not say it in English, I always try to keep it in mind. There is a lot of verity in her words. Yet as we go through life, rarely deliberately, and most often unintentionally, we get hurt and hurt others. Such is life. Yet being thoughtful and considerate of others is crucial. So, while the topic that follows pressures me into drawing certain generalizations, my objective is to make a point, as opposed to belittle or insult anyone or any people. Yet without considering cultural or social contrasts reflections below would not be thought inciting. If this blog is indeed effective, I shall look forward to hearing comments, or being proven wrong through an intelligent discourse.

Coming from a country which oppressed individual’s rights to freedom of speech as well as self-expression, I believe in, cherish and practice my freedom and rights, while respecting the same right when it is exercised by the others. I even take it to the extremes. A transitory recollection.

During my recent stay in Harlem in NYC, I paused at the traffic light, awaiting it to turn. Next to me stopped a black man, or is it more politically correct to refer to him as an African American? No matter, for I deem that the name does not make the person more or less. But as soon as his eyes turned upon me the deluge of vulgarities poured out of his mouth. “What the fuck are you, the White trash doing here!” “Why the fuck don’t get the hell out of here, right now!” And when I turned to look back at him, the fury magnified: “What are you looking at you mother fucker?” I can only assume that this was a rhetorical question, but that did not really matter. I stayed calm and composed. Why? Because, reflecting upon my own experience and hate I faced as a member of a tiny minority, and aware of the history of Black experience in America, in a way I did grasp the origin of where this foul sentiment erupted from. After all, if I cannot tolerate others’ rights to self-expression than I ought to have none. And if this person does not know how to express his anger in a productive or intelligent manner, well, this is further proof that “political correctness” is a fluffy puff of powder applied to a sore resulting from lack of education. Thus, with a change of traffic lights, I proceeded forth, with the man behind me, remaining as vocal as could be.

This incident still troubles me, while also reminding me of the way my people have been treated not just for centuries but millenniums. The only cure for such hateful intolerance is in education. But if the country which considers itself the leader of the “free world” and a “beacon of freedom” elects to waste its vast wealth on excessive and, at this point also wasteful armament, and wars designed to protect greedy interests of the mighty corporations puppeteering the vastly pacified and rarely rebellious majority, instead of education, than what chance do natives of any other countries have? No wonder that religious fanaticism, hate, intolerance, primal behaviors, abuse of women, corruption, tyrannies and other such degrading predispositions continue to flourish.

Therefore until, if ever, a cure is found, we all ought to treasure our right of speech, for in many other countries this freedom is either nonexistent or curtailed by the self-inbred and self-selected elite. In fact I would go as far as stressing that we, in this so called “free world,” ought to watch closely for our Puppeteers never rest stinging those below and weaving their web of control. We must resist with all might the ongoing attempts at diluting and dissipating these rights, or their gradual and deliberate policies draining them away from either the unaware or pacified us. For the so called “political correctness” scheme in fact restricts our freedom of expression as well as trading off diverse opinions and emotions which are definitely better off externalized, shared and deliberated, as opposed to being kept suppressed within us until fermenting into vile vulgarities.

Over my extensive academic and creative careers I have worked, lived in, as well as conducted my Imagination Workshops, presentations and Master Classes in likely the most diverse social, cultural, economic and political settings around the world. Over the last decade especially, I have had the fortune of working or mentoring students and young professionals in various regions of Asia, parts of the Middle East as well as distinctive parts of the Western world, including the US of A.

As an outcome of such a globally contrasting exposures, while reviewing art and design ensuing from my workshops, I began to reflect on key issues which have nothing to do with art per say but instead with the climates in which participants, my students and audiences either live in or originate from. I do find such reflections intriguing. Therefore I wish to dedicate this blog to them. I am confident that especially those of you who have lived around the world will find them reminiscent, dare I say meaningful, or those of you who have not maybe rather maddening? 

A crusader for "gravity free & reality independent" thinking, I am truly passionate about igniting imagination as the Origin of all ideation, inspiration, invention or innovation. I do so by sparking analytical thinking, metamorphic storytelling and visualization empowering self-exploration, self-discovery and self-expression through ideation or the magical language of animation, or digital art, design and media. In addition I also mentor in conceptual design exploring interactive futures seamlessly fusing tactile reality with digital virtuality into one space within which imagination roams free. This I do free of technology but perceiving it as the "magic wand" in the winds of our imagination. I deem that exploration of our vision for the near future is critical as well as exciting.

My Imagination Workshops differ according to the specific audiences, disciplines and objectives. Yet the dominant factors remain the same. My focus is on exposing participants to the “Gravity Free & Reality Independent” perspective on reality. I deem that creative expression lays infinite power in the hands of their instigators. The Author or the Artist transforms into the Creator, the very God over the world of their own conception and vision. Such a world can be uninhibited by reality, logic, physical or moral rules restraining us in our real existence. In such a space artist is free to become unimpeded in conceiving and creating life forms and realities of one’s own imagination.

S/he is free to determine whether gravity exists within such a realm, if the time within it moves forward, backward or stands still. Ability to traverse through time, spaces, perceptions, morphing thoughts forms and fantastical realities is unique to such a creative ideation and process. It is an awesome sway. Artist’s imagination is the only limitation. Yet so often it remains unexplored. Educational, cultural or social rules and mentalities, sense of right and wrong, customs, ability to think independently, to stand up, break or even rebel against norms, all pose potent challenges.  

That is where I come into the scene. This is my self-elected crusade in life. In that role I attempt to awake hibernating imagination in those in whom, due to the various above mentioned factors, imagination has become numb, or has been lulled by the rules. In some of social or cultural upbringings it has been methodically pacified or spayed. Then pressure to grown up, to embark on a career, succeed, make money, to prove one’s “value,” all swarm upon one’s secret desires and extinguish sparks of dreams or passions, causing countless to abandon their “child within.”

Maybe that is why, as a born independent thinker and a refugee from oppressive systems, I find my role so very meaningful, fulfilling and emotionally rewarding. Not so much financially, since these days, and oddly enough in academia, the focus turned more towards edifying its students in “How To” instead of “Why To.” And yes, there are legitimate excuses for it happening. Employment market has become extremely competitive. Thus, to insure that graduates are vendible, and schools can brag about it, endowing them with applied skills is becoming crucial.

However we ought to be asking ourselves, and the educational and academic systems shaping those who will shape our future, whether abandoning the path prescribed by the ingenious mind of Albert Einstein, who concluded that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” is wise?