It is hard for me to imagine the future. I am a person who likes to plan and organize, but at the same time I am very aware that life does not go as expected or planned, and so we have to be able to handle that part of life and existence as well, able to plan and also able to go with the flow, depending on the circumstances. We cannot be so married to our plans that we are unable to accept that reality may not conform with the ideas within our minds. So long as we are able to recognize the difference between reality and our ideas, and to work with reality rather than remain stuck in our ideas when they do not conform with reality, then we need not be threatened by any future.
One reason I tend to be a bit skeptical about the power of imagination when it comes to the future is because I am familiar with people who tend to place a great deal of trust in their own (or others’) speculations about the future. I have no problem with imagination, and I’d like to say that I have a pretty vivid imagination (whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the situation), but at the same time I have no difficulties in admitting that my thoughts and imaginations are not often remotely close with reality as it turns out. Sometimes it is simply a mental experiment to play through implications and consequences without having to try something out. But even there I tend to find that my imagination is far more frictionless than the often messy and complicated and awkward reality.
The concern I have with an insufficient skepticism toward our imaginations is that if we have too much confidence in our own speculations, we are unable to recognize or appreciate the reality we find through more careful investigation or observation. We have to be skeptical of both our heads and our hearts. We have to know that our hearts will lead us astray through our wayward emotions, and that our minds will tend to lead us to deny our humanity or that of others if they run unchecked. And so we must work on both, while always seeking to gather and act on accurate information to the best extent possible, while admitting the possibility of error at every step along the way without letting ourselves be paralyzed as a result of our admission of potential error.
But within these limitations and confines, imagination can be a beautiful thing. It is immensely helpful when one is in a bad situation to be able to visualize a way out of it, to maintain a sense of hope and purpose even in light of difficult circumstances, to avoid being swallowed up by despair. Whenever I have been able to visualize a better future, I have been able to overcome the dark clouds and focus on what I can do to make matters better. When my imagination has failed me it has been impossible for me to keep my spirits up. Sometimes when people say that without vision the people perish they are being more literal than is often understood. At any rate, an imagination that is robust but also kept within proper boundaries is something to treasure, especially when it brings joy and happiness to our lives and the loves of others.