Implementation and Imagination


Imagination must come before implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal conscience that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is afraid of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.

Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

Last night on Jenny Brockie’s Insight program a Record Industry spokesman was proposing that ISP’s identify those who illegally download music and send them a warning. Three warnings and you have your Internet cut off!
Their logic is perfectly reasonable. Free downloading is illegal – it’s stealing, it’s costing the music industry and it’s got to stop!

That’s one way to propose a future. Command and control, legislate and enforce. Implementation!

The story behind the music downloading tussle is told in The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom.
For a book on leadership, it’s a great read!

The big record labels got together to sue Napster, the first free downloading program, but then Kazza popped up with no central server. So then they sued Kazza and up popped Grokster and eDonkey – then eMule which is even more decentalised, so it’s virtually impossible to know who you can sue!

Imaginative geeks find a way!

Others on the Insight program were on to this. Their argument was that kids are always going to take the no cost, easy-as option, so why don’t all the players sit down together to find a “lateral”, creative solution that tries to meet everyone’s needs? For example, everyone might pay their ISP’s an extra $10 a month, which could be distributed to artists according to the number of downloads. etc, etc.

This way – mutuality, collaboration and dialogue, is the way of “imagination”. But it requires a different way of seeing and doing.

This morning on the “Religion Report” (, Jonny Baker was explaining how “alternative worship” had sprung up in the UK, “playing” with traditions and liturgies, making contemporary meanings and so deepening worship. I thought it was a great interview.

It was followed by a report that the Vatican had just issued a decree stating that Catholic women who were ordained as priests will now incur automatic excommunication.

I wonder whether we have a tendency to think implementation, command and control, is the way to create order and enhance human achievement.
But ultimately it doesn’t work. It kills us.

Play, poetry and prayerfulness are ingredients of mulch in the garden of human endeavour, nourishing the “ministry of imagination” and human flourishing.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: