November 4, 2020 - Podcast

Episode 54— Imagination in the face of uncertainty, and keeping up our social responsibility

In the aftermath of America’s national election, our country’s divisions and uncertainty persist. How might we begin to move beyond hostility and strife? One answer may be: Imagination. In his newest collection of essays, The Way of Imagination, Scott Russell Sanders, an Indiana University Distinguished Professor of English, reflects on how we can address the challenges we face—in particular, the extremes of inequality, the legacy of slavery, and our disruption of Earth’s climate and living systems. How can we curb our violence toward nature and toward one another? Imagination, Sanders says, is humans’ superpower, allowing us to envision possibilities that aren’t yet present. “Imagination breaks the shell of the status quo,” he writes, “summoning up objects that do not yet exist, actions that no one has yet performed, and wiser ways of living that have yet to be realized.” Imagination, he says, “keeps us from being trapped in the present arrangement of things.” While acknowledging that imagination can be turned toward corrupt and malicious ends, Sanders points out that it is also the key to compassion. By imagining the experiences and circumstances of other people, we're moved to care about them. Our challenges are enormous and there is great resistance to change, Sanders admits, but each of us has the power to undo some of the damage, heal some of the wounds. By doing whatever is within our power to relieve suffering, foster peace, and support justice, he writes, we “manifest our highest hopes for the world.”

With November’s election day passed, Thanksgiving is on the horizon, followed by holiday shopping, parties, and gatherings. This year, all of these events create opportunities for the COVID-19 virus to spread. Keeping it at bay comes down to social responsibility, says Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education for IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. For example, even though younger people are at lower risk for the worst effects from the virus, Duszynski says it’s important that they remember how their actions can affect the older population or other at-risk individuals. Continued public buy-in and participation in mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing is critical -- everyone needs to be using these tools for our fight against coronavirus to be effective, Duszynski says. The virus is nothing to mess around with, he says; if we can’t or won’t do these things, then we’re going to see a spike in cases. But while the COVID-19 crisis is not over, holiday activities are still possible, if you have a plan. Look to public health officials, Duszynski says, for guidance, informed by evidence and data, on what we should and can be doing.