ON THE EVE OF ELECTION DAY,
JOHN LENNON AND WALLACE STEVENS:
THE POWER OF THE IMAGINATION TO HEAL
Fortunately, I think most of the world knows, by heart, the lyrics of John Lennon's song Imagine
. According to Wikipedia, this utopian song is widely considered as one of the greatest songs of all time. In an interview for Playboy
in 1980, Lennon had this to say about the song:It's not a new message: "Give Peace a Chance"—we're not being unreasonable, just saying, "Give it a chance." With "Imagine," we're saying, "Can you imagine a world without countries or religions?" It's the same message over and over. And it's positive.
Nutopia is a conceptual country created by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on April's Fool's Day in 1973. This country (or nation) was supposed to live up to the standards set by the song Imagine. Nutopia has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. Nutopia has no laws other than cosmic. All people of Nutopia are ambassadors of the country. Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of Nutopia. The flag of Nutopia has only one colour: white. The seal of Nutopia is a picture of the marine animal called a seal.
According to Wallace Stevens, this kind of process of the imagination has the ability to heal the world. In his book The Necessary Angel
: Essays on Reality and the Imagination, Stevens wrote an essay titled the "Imagination as Value." The focus of this essay is to evaluate the value of the imagination to other facets of our life beyond the arts and letters. He starts out the essay with a counter argument from Blaise Pascal, a philosopher of the fifteenth century, who calls "the imagination the mistress of the world." Stevens counters Pascal's original statement by asserting that when Pascal was dying, it was the imagination that could dispose the pain and "create beauty, justice, and happiness". Thus, Pascal's idea eventually leads to this declaration by Stevens:The imagination is the power of the mind over the possibilities of things: but if this constitutes a certain single characteristic, it is the source not of a certain single value but of as many values as reside in the possibility of things.
Obviously, this is huge; the value of the imagination is endless: "works of art ... sculptures of Michelangelo ... architecture ... decorations of churches ... Jesuit church at Lucerne" and so forth. Yet, according to Stevens, the value of the imagination is more complicated when it comes to metaphysics. In the view of the logical positivists, Professor Ayer's book Language, Truth, and Logic professes that the imagination has value as a "means of moral inspiration." Then, Stevens presents Professor Joad's idea that reality (and the imagination) should "transcend the world of sense-experience."
Using Freud as a possibility to support his argument, Stevens purposes the idea that the imagination can be included in a "science of illusions" whereby all possibilities are derived from the mind: "If we live in the mind, we live with the imagination." From Steven's application of the imagination to the poetry of the Bible, he reaches this important understanding: We cannot look at the past or the future except by means of the imagination but again the imagination of backward glances is one thing and the imagination of looks ahead something else. Even the psychologist concede this present particular, for, with them, memory involves a reproductive power, and looks ahead involve a creative power: the power of expectations.
Therefore, when dealing with the arts and letters, the above understanding is rooted in the idea that the imagination affords us the ability to know "the truth as we see it," and what is important in metaphysics "is the truth as it is." Yet Stevens furthers his argument of the good of the imagination in metaphysics when he compares the function of the imagination in the works of art to the life of Professor Santayana whose teachings stress sensation over rigor ("To feel beauty is a better thing than to understand how we come to feel it"), which leads Stevens to the belief that the imagination is "an intrinsic value." Finally, Stevens makes two important points:If the imagination is the faculty by which we import the unreal into what is real, its value is the value of the way of thinking by which we project the idea of God into the idea of man. It creates images that are dependent of their originals since nothing is more certain than that the imagination is agreeable to the imagination.
Thus, in the realm of spirituality and faith, the imagination is a necessity. Furthermore, in our endeavors to follow a humane universal approach to the world, Stevens declares that the imagination is essential: My final point, then, is that the imagination is the power that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal, the opposite of chaos in chaos.
Therefore, Stevens concludes that the value of the imagination reaches far beyond our own logic and analysis to a place where the "the service of love and imagination" can heal "those that live in misery and terror."
So what do you say? Let's join John Lennon and become "dreamers" as we "imagine all the people living life in peace," and perhaps, according to the healing powers Wallace Stevens believes the imagination holds, "the world will be as one."
(Jensea Storie, Poetry Editor)