In 2010 I embarked on a year-long project to create a kind of animated book for an adult audience. The idea was simple: Leverage the full power of the then-new iPad platform to tell a visual story that adults would connect to. The result was a fourteen chapter book called “Drishti: Meditation on the Art of Being” which I released on the App store in early 2011. Though no longer available for download, below are screengrabs of the art work I created for the app, as well as choice chapter excerpts.
Imagination is that most sublime of links between the world as we experience it, and our perception of how it could be different. Robert F. Kennedy captured this idea brilliantly when he said “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why…I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” To imagine is to behold an idea and to explore its possibilities, however farfetched they might seem. Our imagination lets us be spontaneous and playful, and in the best of cases, it gives us a starting place for turning our dreams into reality. Whether our imagination reveals us garnering enough courage to talk to that special someone who seems way out of our league, or excelling in an endeavor that we have only begun to learn, it gives us a concrete picture of a future we have a say in shaping.
Imagination’s role is evident not just in our species, but in the animal kingdom as well. One example of this is the role of play in the development cycle of most mammals. Long before a hunting animal, such as a wolf or lion, makes its first kill, it will have engaged in “pretend”hunting games with its siblings in increasingly violent ways all through its development. Through play, a highly evolved brain learns to take a set of possibilities and work out what sequence of actions will produce the best outcome. When we watch our pet dogs and cats play with the colorful chew toys we buy for them, we recognize that something special is happening that speaks to our pet’s evolutionary development. Likewise, through play, each of us learns to interact with our environment in all the various ways necessary for our growth; everything from walking, talking, to more abstract skills such as reasoning, learning to lead (or follow) and discerning right from wrong, all evolve as a result of play. Our taste for play diminishes as we grow into adulthood, and with it, our sense of imagination has a tendency to dim slightly, in some areas more than others. Our biggest challenge for our continuing growth, is how we can maintain a healthy sense of imagination as our interests shift toward the more practical. More specifically, how can we continue to dream big things for ourselves the way we used to when we were kids?
I am fortunate to have found a profession that demands that I bring ideas into existence for others to see. Thanks to my technical background and artistic training, I am able to speak to a variety of people in a language that is appropriate for each audience. Because of this, my clients feel confident that they can entrust me with their ideas so that I can create compelling narratives for them. When I am designing films for my clients, I am distilling the most important information from the data they give me, and arrange it visually in ways I feel would best tell their stories. It’s a very engaging process that I fully enjoy from beginning to end. An added bonus to the nature of my work is that I can usually point to an end product that is a direct result of the collective imagination of everyone involved. It is with modesty that I share this part of my life, only as an example of how important having a sense of imagination is to me, and how thankful I am to be able to exercise it in this way.
The roles we play during our lifetimes are a direct result of our immediate environments and our circumstances. During every step of the way, we must reach from within to prepare for the unexpected so that we might meet our daily challenges. Having a sense of imagination empowers us to look for opportunities everywhere we turn our gaze toward. It is this continuing openness to change that keeps us engaged in the greatest of mysteries that is our existence in this world.
Our sense of purpose is the fuel that propels us into action in all we do. It is as essential a part of our being as is the steady rhythm of our hearts, and in many ways it too beats in the background, hidden from our immediate awareness. Our purpose is defined by the motives behind our actions, and though we almost never have a say in how such motives take shape within us, we are on a daily basis changed by how we choose to act on them.
When I came to America, I started keeping a journal as a way of documenting what I sensed would be a difficult transition for me. The task of learning to speak English seemed so daunting, I tried to embrace the language in any way I could. I started out by writing short entries that would recount the events of the day, what new words, if any I had learned, and generally what it felt like to think in a different language. Gradually these entries became longer and more involved to the point that they became an essential component of my immigrant experience. Over time, it turned out that keeping these journals was so pivotal in allowing me absorb my new culture in all its shades and patterns, that I continued to record my thoughts from thereon until the present. My journals represent an honest record, not only of who I am, but of the person I’ve dreamed of becoming, and of the gap that there remains to be bridged. The words I’ve written over the years, in their earnestness and imperfection, are a reminder of how far I can travel when I can bring myself to act with purpose. They also show me, in brief passages of pure inspiration, how much I love this adopted language that now shapes a considerable portion of my identity.
Being purposeful is a quality that we are all intimately familiar with, but do not always know how to harness to the best of our abilities. As we go through life, sometimes the falls that we take cause to lose sight of what’s really important to us. During such moments, we must take time to reassess our values, and be willing to make changes if we’re not getting the results that we want. In time, we will likely find that if we are willing to move with clarity, we eventually do, thus bringing us yet one step closer to our destination.
Integrity speaks to the soundness with which a group of working elements come together to perform a task. The integrity of an engine, for instance, measures how well it can operate under a variety of conditions. If one or more of the pieces that make up that engine does not function optimally, the performance of the whole will be adversely impacted, and if left unresolved, can lead to a complete breakdown. We see lots of examples of loss of integrity in film and television. In fact, one of the most effective ways in which action movies build up tension is by putting us in the middle of a situation that is about to take a turn for the worse. The manner in which we are warned of the impending trouble usually involves the camera moving away from the main action to focus in on, say, a small part, like a latch, that is increasingly becoming unstable, or a spinning wheel that is wobbling, on the verge of flying off. The camera continues to track this activity until, almost casually, it fails. While we digest this otherwise unnecessary detail, we know that something bad is going to take place for our protagonists. No sooner do we have this realization, that we are whisked back to watch the main action, which is now flooded with all kinds of alarms, blinking lights, and urgent voices saying things like, “Captain, our sensors indicate that the thingy-magigy has been compromised!” Good God. We knew it! “Prepare for impact!” the captain says cooly, but with solemn finality. We are then treated to a spectacular display of failure as the vehicle that carries our protagonists becomes, in fact, compromised. The payoff comes when our heroes figure out a way to get out of their sticky situation, and we in turn breathe a collective sigh of relief. Whew!
Given this familiar scenario, it’s interesting to note that, even when we don’t understand the intricacies of how a mechanism works, like our fictional vehicle above, or something more relevant like a business enterprise, we have a pretty instinctive understanding of the fact that lots of pieces need to come together for anything of complexity to run smoothly. We understand the value of integrity, and of what can go wrong when it isn’t present. Though we seldom think of our integrity as individuals in similar terms, the fact is that we conduct ourselves within a similar set of rules. The countless ways in which we perceive the world, how we are affected by it, and how we interact with one another, all have some effect on our morals, our belief systems, and even our physical well-being. Each of these things collectively contribute to our overall sense of integrity.
Fantastic, but what does that mean for us? What can we do about developing a deeper sense of integrity? There isn’t really any one thing that will do the trick, unfortunately. We can no sooner evaluate our integrity by turning our attention to any one aspect of ourselves than we can judge a vehicle’s performance exclusively by how well the engine runs–Ease of maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and aerodynamic soundness, to mention a few, all play their pivotal roles too. Perhaps more importantly, having integrity as individuals isn’t really an end goal we can set for ourselves. How often do people list having ‘more integrity’ as one of their New Year’s resolutions? Not very often, right.? It just sounds odd, and it doesn’t make very much sense. What we do hear with some frequency is people talking about their desire to become generally ‘better people.’ That’s wonderful, but once again, what does that really mean? What categories are we going to use to determine how much ‘better’ we want to be? How are we going to measure our improvements, and how consistently are we willing to maintain them? Having integrity is, when it comes right down to it, all about consistency. It’s what sticking to a strict diet requires of us, as well as adhering to a regular regiment of exercise, and pretty much anything else we hope to accomplish. Integrity means having enough self-respect and confidence to do what we say we’re going to do, no matter what. Incidentally, our sense of integrity is not only important in our own development, it is also paramount in how we present ourselves to the world. How much integrity other people see in us define the quality of the relationships that they will be willing to build with us. Our integrity is our currency, so to speak, and together with love and tolerance, defines our true value and potential as human beings.