It happens that we read hundreds of pages of various books just to find one dazzling sentence. I have experienced something like this recently, reading an essay by prof. P. Czapliński “The Limits of Imagination”. This essay contains the following statement: “We are at the extremes of the imagination. They are not marked by the usual end of the current model of development, but by the limit of the possibility of inventing a further sequence of history.”
Why was this statement so important to me? It contains a thought that I have been intuitively sensing for a long time, but not able to articulate it. It turned out to be the missing puzzle that allows you to put a large part of the puzzle together. And it all concerns the question why, as a civilization (especially the Western one), we are in such an unpleasant place? Why are we concerned with all sorts of economic and social problems? Why is populism dominant in politics today? Where is the fundamental flaw in all of this? After all, not so long ago – after the fall of communism – the slogan of “the end of history” was popular. It was supposed to symbolize that capitalism and final democracy proved their superiority, that their universal introduction would make the world only waiting for a stable and lasting development, as a result of which the Earth will become a land of happiness, peace and joy. Meanwhile, everyone can see what the world looks like, and the two key feelings that control people’s minds today are fear and uncertainty. Political elites are unable to respond to these fears or, even worse, try to take advantage of them. No, not to indicate a new quality and a new path, but to direct one or another society on the path of authoritarianism.
The concept of “the ends of the imagination” very well reflects the present state of the world – 30 years after the fall of communism, we totally do not know how to put everything in order. nature, etc. We lack imagination, we are like people lost in a dense forest, spinning in circles, unable to find the right path.
As a result, today man is threatening the existence of life on our planet – every year more than 20,000 people disappear from its surface. animal species. This affects entire ecosystems, limits their diversity – the Earth, instead of blooming, slowly dies, it is not difficult to guess what will happen to us if this trend is maintained.
and others, thanks to this, accumulated more and more wealth, led us to the situation that today the income stratification is enormous – according to Oxfam, the fortune of 1 percent the richest people in the world is bigger than the other 99%! In such a situation, it is difficult not to notice that the economic and financial system in its present form has reached its limits. However, there is a lack of imagination (ideas) of how to change it without causing a catastrophe.
The “limits of the imagination” also apply to the political system, democracy. In the era of widespread media dependence, voters have become objects of manipulation. In this situation, power is increasingly being won by those who use populism and / or nationalism to play out human fear.
There are more areas of the “edge of the imagination”. Another one concerns, for example, technology – as if there are technological progress, but there are no breakthroughs (such as railways or electricity in the past) to look for. We are not able to find answers to the challenges of civilization in technology. the more that physics – even the quantum one – indicates a huge space for even revolutionary solutions, but we lack the imagination to transform the latest knowledge into visions of specific applications.
In virtually all areas of operation, we have reached a kind of wall. Apparently something is happening, but it does not move us forward as a civilization. One can get the impression that we live in the period of the “edge of civilization”, a world with no future, a world where only “here and now” counts, it’s like pushing through another day.
How to get out of this situation? We must realize that today we are like a painter who has rejected half of the available colors from his palette, so that his paintings are able to express only part of reality. About 300 years ago, we focused on only one dimension of life, on materialism – we can see the world only through its prism. It is materialism that has imposed on us the methods of operation and institutional solutions over the past centuries. In order to go beyond the “ends of our imagination”, we must therefore again – this time holistically – look at ourselves, at our goals, role and place on Earth. Instead of tramping over and over in a dark forest, we must … climb a tree – then we will obtain a broader perspective, we will notice that in addition to “having” there is also “being”. The current situation may become a good contribution to this type of reflection. Then something amazing will happen: the horizon of our imagination will significantly broaden, the palette of colors will fill up, we want to start changing the paradigms that govern our life and the world. Along with this, new ideas, institutional solutions creating a “new order”, new breakthrough technologies will start appearing in our heads alone!
Published: Parkiet, 28.03.2020