tomorrow today


There can be little doubt that the world is in trouble. We face enormous challenges here in the first decade of the 21st century and while many of us have become paralyzed by fears that it's too late to stave off the impending doom of environmental collapse, nuclear armageddon, terrorism, and dystopian police states (to name just a few of the bigger threats facing us), we at tomorrowtoday believe that it is fear itself which presents the most immediate obstacle. We've become accustomed to having our fears exploited rather than assuaged and the truth is that fear can immobilize us, preventing us from using man's greatest asset, imagination, to find a way out.

nordgrOur imagination is the quality which separates us from all other life forms on Earth: the ability to step outside of ourselves, beyond the constraints of physical reality--life as we know it--to envision solutions to problems, to see life as it could be. Our imaginative faculty is innate; children engage their imaginations every day when they play because it's how they figure out life and make sense of the world. This phase in our development is incredibly important, not only in shaping the persons we become as adults, but also in determining how we as a species order our world. Perhaps it's this larger role that imagination can play that is the reason why a child's imagination is only nurtured (or, more often, grudgingly indulged or tolerated) for a short time before it's channeled, restrained & constrained--effectively deadened--by the process of socialization. Whether there really is some agency of the status quo that is responsible for the dampening of our innately creative imagination, or this is simply the result of having to address the practical, pragmatic concerns of life is ultimately irrelevant. Tomorrowtoday does not entertain conspiracy theories, politics or any of the other competing systems which together crowd our vision: we will instead focus exclusively on what could be. We've had quite enough of what is.

Regardless of its causes, the great obstacle facing us in coming up with viable, practical, even elegant solutions to our many seemingly insurmountable problems is that our imaginative faculty has been dimmed and we'll need to reawaken it somewhat in order to proceed. A recent article in has come to our attention which examines the conclusions to a number of studies which investigated the role of fantasy in the lives of children (The Real Reason Children Love Fantasy, by Alison Gopnik.)

new consensus emerging as to why children intuitively, instinctively engage in fantasy, whether in their play, or their reading, etc, has nothing to do with the "accepted wisdom" of the past. It is not, for example, for therapeutuic reasons, to

"'work out their problems' or as 'an escape.' Children's lives can be tough, certainly, but relatively speaking they are considerably less tough, more protected, more interesting, even, than adult lives. Happy, healthy children are, if anything, more likely to be immersed in a world of fantastic daydreams, public or private, than unhappy or troubled children."

Nor is it because,

" earlier psychologists, from Freud to Piaget, also suggested that children might be unable to discriminate between reality and fantasy, truth and imagination. It's not so much that children embraced fantasy as that they were unable to recognize reality. But 20 years of empirical research have shown that this also is simply not true. Even the very youngest children already are perfectly able to discriminate between the imaginary and the real, whether in books or movies or in their own pretend play. Children with the most elaborate and beloved imaginary friends will gently remind overenthusiastic adults that these companions are, after all, just pretend."

Gopnik begins the argument for the new interpretation by summarizing the real reason that children engage in fantasy:

"In fact, cognitive science suggests that children may love fantasy not because they can't appreciate the truth or because their lives are difficult, but for precisely the opposite reason. Children may have such an affinity for the imaginary just because they are so single-mindedly devoted to finding the truth, and because their lives are protected in order to allow them to do so."

In other words, when they engage in fantasy, children are actually intuitive little scientists:

"Two decades of research have shown that children construct and revise an everyday physics and biology and, above all, an everyday psychology. These everyday theories are much like the formal, explicit theories of science. Theorizing lets children understand the world and other people more accurately...At first, you might think that the idea that children are intuitive scientists would be completely at odds with the childhood passion for fantasy. But in fact, theorizing and fantasizing have a lot in common. A theory, in science or in everyday life, doesn't just describe one particular way the world happens to be at the moment. Instead, having a theory tells you about the ways the world could have been in the past or might be in the future.
What's more, a theory can tell you that some of those ways the world can be are more likely than others. A theory lays out a map of possible worlds and tells you how probable each possibility is. And a theory provides a kind of logic for getting to conclusions from premises—if the theory is correct, and if you accept certain premises, then certain conclusions and not others will follow.

This is why theories are so profoundly powerful and adaptive. A theory not only explains the world we see, it lets us imagine other worlds, and, even more significantly, lets us act to create those worlds. Developing everyday theories, like scientific theories, has allowed human beings to change the world. From the perspective of my hunter-gatherer forebears in the Pleistocene Era, everything in the room I write in—the ceramic cup and the carpentered chair no less than the electric light and the computer—was as imaginary, as unreal, as fantastic as Narnia or Hogwarts. The uniquely human evolutionary gift is to combine imagination and logic to articulate possible worlds and then make them real."


This, then, is the mission of tomorrowtoday, to recapture this ability, "the uniquely human evolutionary gift (which) is to combine imagination and logic to articulate possible worlds and then make them real." The most amazing thing about this effort is that it's far easier than we had thought. The next most amazing aspect of this project is that success leads to further success; one area just naturally takes us to another. We've decided to divide the project into the following "categories," in order to allow visitors to navigate among areas of interest more easily, but it soon becomes apparent that the divisions are somewhat arbitrary. Society & art, for example, have a great deal to do with habitat & environment, and so on, but as a framework for this effort we feel this is a useful system.

Please join us in this effort. Comments and suggestions will be taken into serious consideration as this project matures. This is an exciting and necessary step in mankind's journey; it is our firm belief that envisioning solutions is the greatest part of the work. Once we've formulated our vision together, our intuition is that, as a sympathetic voice recently put it:

" makes me think that if we could just imagine that better world -- not a perfect world, but one that was freer and more honorable and more creative than our own -- it would release a great, pent-up wave of longing and desire. That people would recognize it the moment they heard tell of it and would want nothing more than to bring it into existence."

Let it be so...(thanks, S.!)

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