Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Use your imagination and let the madmen come running

Over the past weekend, I found myself in Brisbane looking at pretty lights. These were not just decorative pieces of coloured glass, shining from dark street corners or winking seductively in some refurbished inner-city bar. These were lights that crashed and crept, weaved and wandered, exploded and evaporated, on concrete walls of historic buildings. 
Lights on a Brisbane building

The occasion was a campaign called Colour Me Brisbane. It had been developed to mark the forthcoming G20 Summit and was offered as free entertainment in various parts of Brisbane’s CBD. On one night, I was first exposed to the shifting hues of an entire city landscape, from across the river in Southbank. The second time, I approached some of the same locations after being at work, in the heart of the city, and then walking up a few blocks, along a route traversing Charlotte Street, George Street and, finally Queen Street.

Sitting at various locations, watching the exterior of Parliament House and the Casino transform before my eyes, like some high-quality, optical Punch and Judy show, I was reminded, once again, of our capacity to create. As long as humans have the ability to imagine, we will never become extinct. It is through using the torch of our imagination that we come to understand how to shape the world and adapt ourselves to live in it.
The author JG Ballard once said :”I believe in the power of the imagination to remake the world, to release the truth within us, to hold back the night, to transcend death, to charm motorways, to ingratiate ourselves with birds, to enlist the confidences of madmen.”
"there is indeed a 'truth within us'..."

It is perhaps ironic that a city looking to mark an event all about nations and their economic viability turns to art to celebrate. While the headlines will no doubt see the ‘madmen’ trying to instil confidence in us, we should not be so easily convinced to let go of everything else: there is indeed a  ‘truth within us’ and, together, we can shine a spotlight on those parts of the world that need our faith, our hope and our love. Oh, and our imagination!

You see, that’s the thing about lights: they provide contrast in our lives. Whenever we turn one on, or we see the sunrise over the beach, or a star blazes bright through the night sky, we are reminded that there also used to be darkness, night-time and the endless emptiness of space. Our desk lamp, those sunbeams, the heavenly movement that prompts a thousand wishes – these are all signs of hope and encouragement.
"...that’s the thing about lights: they provide contrast in our lives..."

It is true that none of us can hold off the inevitable hand of death or live with our sense of truth hiding in the cave that is our soul. Instead, we owe it to ourselves, and also to those who love us, to seek illumination wherever, and however, we can. To paraphrase Keats: we can be certain of nothing ‘but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination’.

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