Monday, October 31, 2011

The act of imagination

The imagination can create the future only if its products are brought over into the real. The bestowal of the work completes the act of imagination. ... [W]hen we refuse what has been offered to the empty heart, when possible futures are given and not acted upon, then the imagination recedes. And without the imagination we can do no more than spin the future out of the logic of the present; we will never be led into new life because we can work only from the known. ... The artist completes the act of imagination by accepting the gift and laboring to give it to the real (at which point the distinction between "imaginary" and "real" dissolves).

~Lewis Hyde, The Gift

An outstanding book, by the way. As is Hyde's follow-up, Trickster Makes This World.


Bob Ryskamp said...

Wow, I didn't notice that when reading it. His broader point though, about true art only being possible as a gift, did make me ponder its role in business, and in a business-dominated society.

Perhaps the reason that so many corporate "visions" are uninspiring?

Stuart Candy said...

Yeah, this gem's tucked away in there, almost as an aside. Amazing book; pitched at just the right level of abstraction to prompt wholesale rethinking of things (cf. Finite and Infinite Games, one of my all-time favourites).

Well yeah, I have had similar thoughts about the spiritual/artistic poverty of corporate visioning, and the want of inspiration in commercial foresight generally. The gift of alternative futures to a culture seems a more generous and likely catalytic act than work-for-hire.

But these tensions are everywhere, so at least we can wrestle with them in good company. I take heart from the fact that even (for example) certain Hollywood films, while commoditised, can be amazing works of art, too.

Anyway great point Bob - and very nice to hear from you!