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In the realm of imagination

All art is based on the assumption that it has to go beyond the prevalent. It aspires to break the boundaries of time and space and ride on the wings of imagination

In the realm of imagination

Artistes and poets have always yearned for freedom of expression and a society that cherishes the value of freedom. And it should not be surprising because the cherished goal of all art and literature is to create an ideal order where freedom becomes the norm in thought and action.

All art is based on the assumption that it has to go beyond the prevalent. In this seed of rebellion is embedded the launching pad for change. It aspires to break the boundaries of time and space and ride on the wings of imagination. All art and literature, or great art and literature is wishing for the alternative while that which is not great can be defined as a mere affirmation of what exists.

So the struggle between the artistes and society or those that desire change and those who want stability is a primordial one. It is no wonder that Hafiz saw more value in the beauty of the til on the beloved’s face than the entire worth of the conquest of Samarkand and Bokhara by Taimoor while Ghalib only saw wisal as an unattainably illusive yet indispensable ideal.

And it is no wonder that even in the freest of societies the artistes have always pitched for freedom and never settled for what is available and readily found at the doorstep. The realists may scoff at the idealistic kite-flying of the poet and the artiste but this is the crux of literature and the arts and to question it is to kill the reason for its very existence.

And the poets and the artistes have always landed in trouble for questioning the status quo and desiring a better alternative. Mansur and Sarmad were condemned and sentenced for having crossed the red line, Socrates accused of corrupting the youth had to down the chalice of hemlock, while Neruda and Faiz spent years languishing behind bars for conjuring up a future that was not symbolised as tainted dawn.

Such people are the greatest threat to society and, hence, are looked at with great suspicion.

Read also: The limits of women’s agency

But if one looks at it all, what actually is freedom other than what is being desired. It has to rest in the future because it represents the process in its actualisation. The path may be slippery but it seems to be upwardly inclined with a light simmering at its very end.

Satisfaction of a poet, musician and painter in his or her death and the desire to know more and seek more is the oxygen. They are the architects that make their models in dreamlands and then offer an alternative to be emulated in reality.

Since these expression fly on the wings of fancy, they always precede and roadmap the route the society intends to take.

Of course, the freedoms that one demands or dreams about can be in social reality or lie in the realm of imagination. In societies that are oppressive and controlled the target is easy to identify and symbolise. It may be the political forces, or social oppression or an ideology that curbs freedoms in the name of some religious, political or national value. But the real challenge rests with societies that appear to offer, on the surface, plenty of freedoms.

The quest of the artiste goes, not stops, with the freedoms offered or used or utilised but with asking for more. It can go beyond the tangible realities, an established order or the physical limitations and may well fly into the area that demands or at least questions the embodiment of the human spirit in flesh or the unravelling of potential in time.

For ages, humans have wanted freedom from want, to be liberated of the cravings of the flesh, to be free of the dependency on progeny, free of the allure of power, free from the snares of infirmity and the vicious circle of birth, copulation and death.

It can find the realities of time and space as being too circumscribing. Some have only imagined freedom to be in the hereafter “Agar aur jeetey rehte yehi intezaar hota” while many others have attempted to create utopias in the here and now. ”Present mirth hath present laughter……..what’s to come is still unsure, come kiss me sweet-and-twenty, youth’s a stuff will not endure”. (Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare.)

Every tangible freedom gained is the stepping stone of yet another freedom to be attained.

Some have even complained about the constriction placed within the formulation of the word and sought liberation in the non-designative nature of the sur. It is said in the Vedas that pure music lies in the sur being unstruck ’ahat’ whereas ‘anahat’ the struck note is the release of that potential in the world, albeit much reduced.

“Heard melodies are sweet but those unheard sweeter” and so if seen from the other side of the telescope, it is a promotion of a condition where what is unsaid holds greater potential than what is said. Its very utterance is a reductive expression of experience.

The potential in its actualisation holds the pitfall of reduction and this has been the main force behind the idea of the tragic. The potential does not deliver fully in its realisation.

Satisfaction of a poet, musician and painter in his or her death and the desire to know more and seek more is the oxygen. They are the architects that make their models in dreamlands and then offer an alternative to be emulated in reality. This has been the order that has been followed and this has worked and so forms the template of human progress or evolution.

It is far easier if the target can be identified, one religious group oppressing another, one nation colonising another, one ethnic group domineering over another, one race lauding over another, one class ruling over another, and one gender dictating the other. It is an open and shut case with the target visible and set in bull’s eye but the next stage or rung is difficult to climb because it is not that tangible or clear in its outline. For then the real struggle begins as the straight line may bend in becoming cyclic, going round and round in circles.

Kashakash hai hasti se
kare kiya saeeye azadi
Hui zanjeer mauje aab ko
fursat rawani ki

Sarwat Ali

sarwatali
The author is a culture critic based in Lahore

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