Where do you feel hope? In your head, your belly, your heart? Does it make your eyes well up? Your stomach generate happy butterflies? Does your heart swell when you feel hope? Your skin tingle?
Hope is visceral. It's something real. We can feel it; it's tangible.
Hope may very comfortably inhabit and energize the body, but it isn't born there. It begins life as an intangible - a slight nebulous energy, the whisper of an idea. Emily Dickinson called this airy embryo "the thing with feathers." Hope flutters to life within the imagination, that amazing all-too-human faculty that is, perhaps, our greatest gift.
Imagination feels magical, but its function is not all that mysterious. It quite literally and simply allows us to "make images" in our minds. What we can envision, we can then realize, or make real. Thus we become artists, writers, innovators, problem-solvers, music-makers, architects, storytellers, scientists, crafters, players.
The capacity to imagine is an awesome and intangible gift, anchored in the merely conceptual. But its power is nevertheless built in the same way that physical muscles are built - through exercise, training, hard work, strain, and honing. The less an imagination is used, the more flaccid and useless it becomes. The more it is exercised and encouraged to run freely, the more imagination grows capable of daring feats and flights, many of which may even cross the border into the improbable.
We need nothing more in the world right now than strong and powerful imaginations. If we want to produce hope and experience its inspiring impacts within our animal bodies and within our corporeal world, we first need to fabricate images of a beautiful, peaceful, nourishing future. It doesn't matter if some of these visions seem impossible - once upon a time 90% of the everyday things we now live with were deemed impossible, too.
We cannot create what we cannot first imagine. Hope is a by-product of our best, wildest imaginings. In a not-so-long-ago interview, author Mohsin Hamid (Exit West) was asked to comment on the anxious state of the world. He replied simply that we are suffering most from "a failure of the imagination."
We must act - physically, tangibly - to heal the world. But we must also dream; we must imagine. Some of the images we produce will become sacred maps, showing a way forward. They will be wild. They will be improbable. They will birth life-giving hope.
So please, when you feel powerless - when you feel that there is nothing you can do - exercise your imagination and let the creative impulse of the Universe run freely through you. DREAM of a beautiful, abundant, healthful future. Dance it, draw it, muse on it, tell its stories, play its music, watch for its signs in the clouds, play with it, sing it, read it, write it, paint it, listen to it, wonder it into being. We desperately need new stories and new maps - lots of them. We wait with open arms and open hearts to welcome the new HOPE that is struggling to be born.