Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

“A powerful imagination generates the event”

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Over the weekend I picked up one of the slim “Great Ideas” volumes published by Penguin Books. It was a collection of Michel De Montaigne’s writings from the mid-1500’s. One chapter begins: “Fortis imagination generat casum”: a powerful imagination generates the event.

It was wonderful to find a 500 year old antecedent to the themes I’ve tried to write about in THE IMAGINATIONS OF UNREASONABLE MEN, especially from one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance.

The deeper I dig into the extraordinary growth of Share Our Strength these past 18 months, and the more I study areas of transformative change, as in the field of global health, the more it affirms that most of the failures that hold individuals and organizations back from the advances they seek, are not failures of money or manpower, but failures of imagination.

Imagination – to not only feed children but to end childhood hunger, to not only treat malaria but to develop a vaccine to eradicate it, – can actually be cultivated in very specific ways that include:

 Constantly challenging conventional wisdom and longstanding assumptions

 Funding R&D as a necessity not a luxury

 Rewarding risk and not penalizing dreamers

 Asking hard questions about what is possible if the questions seem naïve

 Forcing leaders our from behind their desks and into places where imagination will be stimulated.

Montaigne makes clear that what we’ve known for hundreds of years but sometimes forget: the power of imagination makes it possible to envision and create a world which does not yet exist but is within our grasp to achieve.