Q: Where does imagination come from?
A: Roughly speaking, I follow Spivak’s definition of the “imaginative,” which is a broad understanding of thought processes in order to distinguish it from the cold, hard reality of the “world” around “us.” The imagination is the only location where one can possibly encounter hope, since all “real” decisions are trapped in endless double binds, unable to act ethically between dueling imperatives.
However, that doesn’t really answer the question of “where” it comes “from.” Indeed, this question exhibits considerable naïvaté, as if there is some transcendent font from which imagination issues. Would you like me to tell you that it comes from a unicorn’s teat? Because that is about as reasonable as most explanations that deal with some sort of divine “inspiration” or some fickle harlot of a muse. Even the notion that imagination originates from within an isolated subject is about as believable as a unicorn teat.
So where DOES imagination come from? Perhaps it originates in our eternal alienation from both the sensual world of experience and the social discourse that we encounter. We can never quite come to terms with the gulf that divides the two realms. In order to become a functional (if not autonomous) subject, we must imagine a possible bridge between them, or block out the paradoxical elements in a moment of creative erasure. Indeed, those who have gone mad have perhaps stared too long into the gap between the experiential and the social, and must manufacture a whole new world in the imagination. They are guilty of a surfeit of imagination.
Next time you imagine something stupid, just remember that it the only thing keeping you from confronting the terrible emptiness of the human experiment. Have a nice day!