The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Crisis of Imagination

In the next stage of our journey we will outline ten paths of Hebrew tantra. In each of these paths the starting point will be the sexual. In each chapter we will identify a unique quality of the sexual that models the erotic. These include creativity, pleasure, imagination, transcendence, surrender, union, and many more.

These erotic qualities are manifested in our world most powerfully in the sexual arena. Sex tells us that these qualities are a genuine option in our lives. Once we know they are possible – for we have experienced their potent presence in our sexuality – we can begin to realize them in other aspects of our lives. We need to be lovers beyond the bedroom, even as the sexual hints at the way. This is the redemption of the Shechina. The end of the exile.

Virtually every crisis at its core is a failure of imagination. Some years back, I took off three years from "spiritual teaching" to get a sense of what the world tasted like as a householder. I took a job at a high-tech company and from that relatively nondemanding perch began to rethink my life and beliefs.

During this period, I did a bit of consulting with Israeli high-tech start-up firms. Truth is, I had little good advice to offer, but some of the high-tech entrepreneurs who had been my students would call me anyway. At one point, I received a call from a small start-up firm in Ramat Gan, Israel. The problem: They were almost out of venture capital, their market window seemed to be rapidly closing, and their research and development team was simply not keeping pace with their need for solutions.

Apparently, the problem lay with the elevator. The company was on the top floor of an old warehouse. The elevator was small, hot, and inordinately pungent. By the time the R & D teams would get through the daily morning gauntlet of the elevator they had lost some of their creative sparkle. The president was convinced that this experience dulled their edge just enough to slow down the speed and elegance of their solutions. What to do? I have to confess to you, dear reader, that I had not the slightest idea.

Our meeting was on Friday. As was my custom, I went home for the Sabbath and consulted with my own private consultant, my then-eight-year-old son, Eitan. When I asked him what I should tell the company, he laughed and said somewhat mockingly, "It's simple, Dad – cookies." I did not find this particularly funny. I raised this subject with him several times, to which he would only respond, with maddening gravitas, "Cookies."

Finally I gave up on him. Several days later I went to tell the president I had found no solution. I was going up the same malodorous elevator when in a blinding flash I realized what Eitan meant. Cookies! Of course! We had all been focused on elaborate ways to fix the elevator or to move locations. Eitan – with the simple brilliance of a child – reminded us of the true issue at stake. The crux of the matter was not the elevator, it was how the R & D team felt when they left the elevator. So what to do? Cookies. We set up a table with juices, fruit, and healthy cookies right outside the elevator. So even though the ride up the elevator was terrible, people would spend the whole ride eagerly anticipating the goodies that awaited them. No one else could envision Eitan's simple yet elegant solution because their imagination was "stuck in the elevator." A simple paradigm shift was inspired by re-imagining.

Like so many of eros's expressions, we fear imagination, for imagination holds out the image of a different life. It challenges our accommodations to the status quo. It suggests that all of the compromises upon which we have based our lives might not have been necessary. Our fear of imagination is our fear of our own greatness. So we work hard to kill it. We tell children to grow out of it. "It's only your imagination," we tell them, as if this was somehow an indication that "it" was therefore less real.

It was Albert Einstein's gift of imagination that allowed him to formulate the concept of relativity. Einstein literally imagined what it would be like to travel on a beam of light. What would things look like? What would another traveler, on another beam of light going in the opposite direction, look like to him? Without leaps of imagination, no growth is possible and the spirit petrifies in its old frozen masks.

- The Mystery of Love


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