• Joan Fernandez

Power of Imagination

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

John Lennon

I hope you’re finding peace.

Last time I wrote a blog was December. Back then we were all humming along with our comfortable plans and cushy routines neatly mapped out in front of us.

Back then my goal was to double-down on revising my novel. Its due date loomed in June.

Back then I had airline tickets purchased for trips and ran to the grocery store on a whim and ate hurried meals at the kitchen island and rarely saw neighbors and went months without speaking to family members and never had enough time.

Not always peaceful.

Busy.

That was then.

But now here we are—10 months later--in a world so different that even if we’d imagined it…No, we wouldn’t have imagined it, would we?... A world that today begs for peace amidst turmoil and fear. It’s been really hard. There have been so many times when my heart thudded in my chest for no external reason. Just an internal dread and anxiety that so many things felt out of whack and dangerous.

Out of control.

Helpless.

So, in response, I amped up my little planner psyche and dug in: Set up a weekly Zoom with the neighbors, switched dinner from the kitchen island to a table with cloth napkins and placemats, joined virtual “write-in’s” with other women's fiction authors across the country, Zoomed with family, and showed up at peaceful protests. I leaned into more activity, creating new connections and reigniting old ones.

But still needling threads of anxiety pulled into little knots throughout my days.

I was grabbing control wherever possible. Setting up a bunch of new commitments in my calendar. Yet, I didn’t really feel better. More like a hunkering down. I yearned to feel a peace that was ironclad and battle-tested--not a weak surrender to dark days--but a conviction that could pile weight on an existential scale tilting us away from the side marked, “We’re all screwed.”

Tilting it toward, “We’re all going to be all right.”

Don’t you feel it too? A yearning not to be in a constant state of turmoil and trigger-reactions? Perhaps that’s the first step, the pang of protest that opens up space for solutions to emerge even when the world looks despairingly bleak.

It’s possible that right now mind-blowing solutions to our stinky-est problems are already in the works. Here’s a story that shows exactly that.

Inspiring Story of Innovation

In research for my book one of the important backdrops to my story is the pace of industrialization and growth of cities around the turn of the century. People flocked to cities from the countryside. London, Paris and New York streets were filled with horse-drawn transportation: hansom cabs, carts, surreys and even 12-horse buses. In New York, a population of 100,000 horses carried people and goods through its metropolis.

A single horse generates 15 to 35 pounds of manure daily. Think of it: In NYC that meant 3 to 4 million pounds of manure gaggingly plopped onto the streets every day. Plus 40,000 gallons of urine into the muck daily. Even as horses were used to haul away the sewage, of course more manure piled up. To make matters even worse, the manure attracted huge clouds of flies--carriers of typhoid fever—dangerously increasing the risk of spreading disease.

In desperation, in 1898 the world's first international urban planning meeting was held in NYC. Planned as a 10-day conference, after just three days the participants abandoned it. Nobody could see a solution. Impossible to control the mess they’d created. Impossible to stop the transfer of people and goods into these growing cities so dependent on horses.

Progress had created an unintentional, insurmountable mess.

No solution in sight.

Yet, unknown by them, a crazy, unheard-of, unfathomable fix was underway. Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and others were already at work on the design of a horseless-carriage. And when Henry Ford created a production process that made automobiles affordable, cars replaced horses at lightening speed. By 1912, cars outnumbered horses on the streets of New York and London. By 1917, the very last horse-drawn carriage retired.

Right then, even as people gagged behind their handkerchiefs and all those urban planners gulped down whiskey despondently, right then an answer germinated.

Insurmountable problem: solved.

Power of Imagination

Another car maverick, innovator Elon Musk, has said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”

It’s possible for us to have a peaceful government. A healthy earth. Tolerant conversations that are willing to work through the complexities of issues with a mutual willingness not to jump into defense or attack when there’s a whiff of disagreement. (Check out the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, on how the information we receive is so silo-ed that our differences have been amplified to a point where there’s no convergence. No wonder we can’t talk about disagreements civilly.)

Again: I’m imagining that right now mind-blowing solutions to our stinky-est problems are already in the works. It’s possible for our country to come together. It’s possible for us to live on our planet without harming it. It’s possible that we can live in a world of thoughtful discourse and inclusion that welcomes and cares for its beautiful mix of people and life.

There is power in imagination. For what we see--what we state and dare to declare-- manifests.

Would you take a minute and write your own “what’s possible” statement and send it to me?

I have to end this note with the final powerful stanza of Lennon’s Imagine. To hear the entire song, check out this one on Instagram performed by two Mayo Clinic doctors in March right in the beginning throes of our pandemic.

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one.

Let’s do it. One world. One imagination at a time.


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