Imagination, the loss of

I often consider and occasionally voice my consternation about the loss of imagination in our society. For the most part, because of my circle, this usually takes focus on people’s general inability to have opinions on the visual arts, especially painting. People are uncomfortable and search for simple meanings instead of considering the nasty possibilities right in front of them. The focus with painting is a basic unfamiliarity with the form, and the lack of comfort to decide whether something is good or not that typically ensues – the “I don’t know, so I can’t say” gambit. But the culprit-in-essence is collective experience: that we have abdicated thinking on an individual basis and need the validation of mass acceptance or rejection to filter any sort of experience. You can see how this would stand in the way of far more than simply appreciating Klee or Rothko.

Here is a very similar take from a different angle. The very limited sources from which people receive information make us all vulnerable to having our passions manipulated, simply because we have become passive and have lost the ability to follow basic plots. There is all kinds of recent evidence on this front. How would you know who was telling the truth or if they had a reason to lie to you if you weren’t doing your homework?

Making the shift to a sustainable society is going to be massive feat of imagination on many fronts; we simply cannot rely on others to make informed judgments on our behalf. It is a symbiosis of vigilance, in its way – Everyone with their eyes open keeps everyone honest. I know you work too much, you’re tired and you don’t have time – but these are the prices we pay to indulge such vices. All these time-saving devices are exhausting us. There is much yet required of us if we insist on living this way.

Green means being informed.


Mark Rothko
Red, Orange, Tan and Purple,
Oil on canvas
84 1/2 x 68 1/2 inches (214.5 x 174 cm)
Private collection
©1999 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York