Artistic Expression Arts and 21st Century Learning The Arts and Lifelong Learning

The Power of Imagination

Artists perpetually change the way we all look at things. They use their imaginations to transform our knowledge and understanding of the world. Once we experience expanded limits of our personal knowledge, whether we agree or challenge the learning, life from that point on will never be the same. As creators of our own lives, we can all use our imaginations not only to expand our own understanding of the world, but also to influence new possibilities for those in our home, community, and work environments.

When I lived in Sedona, Arizona, my backyard view had an incredible backdrop of irregularly shaped red rock formations that rise like statues out of the ground. Everyone in the area called the formations by names based on their overall shape. I had a clear view of Bell Rock, a name that came from the fact that it looks like a bell. The view from my house looked west toward Bell Rock, and every evening it was illuminated by the setting sun in a stunning, brilliant orange and red glow.

Man’s mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Bell RockBert and Josephine—a delightful retired couple who lived next door—stopped over one evening, and we silently admired the beauty of the colorful display against the red rocks. They had been reflecting on Bell Rock for many years. Josephine suddenly broke the silence with a declaration that Bell Rock looked to her like Bert’s nose. As I focused more on the actual rock formation, it took me a minute to understand. Sure enough, there it was—Bert’s nose! We laughed, and as we continued to study Bell Rock, the image of Bert’s nose became clearer and clearer until finally, that’s all we could see. The head was positioned as if a person was lying on his back staring straight up to the sky. There was a slight indentation where the eye would be, piñon trees formed bushy eye lashes, the nose was quite prominent, the lips were shaped by rising and falling outcroppings of rock, and the chin curved perfectly to the neck. There it was—Bert lying on his back watching the sky and the setting sun.

Her imagination changed the way I looked at the rock formation forever. When you think about it, new thoughts and ideas permanently change our minds all the time. Imagination—the source of ideas—is an important aspect of 21st century living. Josephine used the freedom of mind, the questioning, and the creativity of an artist to see Bell Rock in a new way. Her curiosity and openness to seeing new things launched a new understanding, a new way to look at something she had seen day after day for many years. Imagination initiates everything, and new knowledge and understanding grow from there.

Andy WarholThe power of imagination is clear in the work of American artist Andy Warhol who said—

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Artists use their imaginations to deliberately explore new possibilities. We need the thinking—the imagination—of an artist to lead the way forward in the complex world of the 21st century.

Commit yourself to curiosity—to using your imagination—and expand your own understanding of things. Transform your own life and influence new possibilities for those around you.


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