Every change begins with re-imagination

Makati Skyline
The Philippines: How can we contribute towards its progress?
It has been said time and again that every act of creation in the physical world begins with creation in the world of imagination.

Before a home is built, it is first an architect’s blueprint, and even before that, a picture in the architect’s mind.

Before a song becomes a hit single, it is first some notes on a page, and before that, a few bars ringing in the songwriter’s head.

Before a book becomes a best-seller, it is first a series of drafts that form a manuscript, and before that, words, dialogues, and characters dancing around in the author’s head.

Every structure and machine that was ever built, every idea that had become a glitzy advertising campaign or a movement, every Hollywood blockbuster, every technological wonder out in the market–even every living thing on this planet, whether its birth was planned or unplanned–was created first in someone’s mind.

The mind is a truly wonderful, powerful thing. According to an article in The Scientific American , “If your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.”

But what happens when the mind is bogged down by present-day realities, by heavy baggage coming from the past, by worries about what will happen in the future–where to get the next meal, how to pay for the bills, the state of a loved one’s health? Imagination weakens, and we succumb to the false perception that every day is going to be just like the next, that nothing will change and things will always stay the same.

But consider this: as recent as five years ago, the women of Payatas were condemned to a live of poverty, working all day to make and sell rugs that were valued at just P1 each. Then in came a group of friends and colleagues that called themselves Rags2Riches, and the lives of these rug-makers, these “nanays”, were transformed. Rags2Riches worked to create more value out of the rugs by working with some of the Philippines’s most talented and internationally-renowned fashion designers, and the nanay’s products then became highly coveted fashion accessories.

A little over three years later, R2R, as the company is also called, is now a multi-awarded social enterprise employing hundreds of “nanays” who earn about 20 to 50 percent of each bag made, which in turn cost around P400-2,000+ each. The company itself has won tens of thousands of dollars, pounds, and euros in grant money to expand its operations.

All this in less than five years–all with a little help from creative minds with hyperactive imaginations.

According to the Psychology Dictionary, “Imagination is the faculty through which we encounter everything. The things that we touch, see and hear coalesce into a ‘picture’ via our imagination. The way we understand things… the way that we ‘make sense’ of things is through our imagination. The ability to problem-solve… to see things from a different perspective… to empathize… all happen because we have this technicolor, multi-channel, curious imagination. Imagination IS the ability to create perceptions. Novel perceptions. Fantastical perceptions. Hypothetical perceptions.”

But what if the perceptions could possibly become more than just fantastical or hypothetical? Ten years ago, nobody thought that blogs would have the power that they do now. Nobody had imagined how the world could be connected through social networks called “Facebook” or “Twitter.” Nobody imagined that governments would be so threatened by these new forms of communication that they would have to be shut down in certain countries. Five years ago, consumers could only wish for something like the iPad. And 25 ago, nobody would have thought that a bloodless revolution was at all possible.

Miraculous things can happen when we open our minds to the possibilities, when we break the shackles of our past and present to look at the world and all its possibilities through different lenses–when we take ourselves out of ANY box and begin to re-imagine.

The Philippine archipelago connected by high-speed trains? Why not?
Thirty years ago, we didn’t even imagine there would be MRTs and LRTs in the metro–and traffic of this magnitude. Why can’t we re-imagine Philippine transportation for the rest of the 21st century?

A country less dependent on coal and oil and powered by renewable energy? Why not?
At present, only 33% of our energy needs are supplied by coal and oil combined. Thirty-two percent (32%) is actually supplied by natural gas, and another 33% is supplied by a combination of geothermal and hydro power. Can we bring down the numbers of coal and oil? Most certainly!

A professional football league in the Philippines–finally? Why not? Mid-last year, when the rest of the world was going ga-ga over the World Cup, we could only dream of fielding our own football team into the professional leagues. The Azkals‘ victory in the Suzuki Cup semis changed all that, and now Filipinos are realizing why the rest of the world loves football.

A Philippines that can leverage its biodiversity to earn revenues for the protection of our ecosystem? Why not?
Brazil was able to maximize the Amazon Rainforest, setting up the Amazon Carbon Exchange and getting polluters in North America, Europe, and Japan to pay for carbon credits that are now being used to preserve parts of the Amazon. Why can’t we learn from the rest of the world and adapt to create our own working models?

At the turn of the second decade of this century. it is imperative that we begin looking at our present and future through perspectives that have otherwise been called “crazy”, “impossible”, and “far-out”. It’s important for us to leave the baggage of the 25 years post-EDSA, or the 100-plus years post-Spanish colonialization, behind and begin re-imagining a future that is worthy of the lives we want to live, the lives we want for our children.

It is not at all impossible. It can be done. Why do I believe so? Because the mind is a truly powerful thing, and when enough of us engage in collective re-imagining, there is no limit to what we can achieve together. It has already begun; we just need to keep going and keep re-imagining.