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Darkness falls quickly, long before dinner.  The evenings are deep and reflective, times that make body and soul a bit weary.  Deep Winter, just before the Solstice, is a time for imagination and possibility more than making something happen.

Into this darkness plunged the news that the “Dear Leader” of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, has died suddenly.  The world has reacted with a mild panic, stock markets tumbling as they contemplate the possibility of more uncertainty ahead in the region.  This was especially true in South Korea, a nation that only recently completed the leap from developing nation to the developed world.

This may not seem like a time of “Romance” in the way that anyone typically uses the word, but the imagination of the moment demonstrates what a new Romantic Era is like, good and bad, far better than nearly anything else.

There is little doubt that the situation in North Korea is desperate.  For decades, young men have willingly sold themselves into  slavery in Russian (and possibly Chinese) labor camps simply for the thin opportunity to defect once they were there.  Word of a new famine has leaked out, one that may rival the one of a decade ago that killed at least a million people.

South Korea has always imagined reunification when the enigmatic north finally failed.  They recently started “Reunification TV” as an internet channel full of news, dramas, and talk shows designed to get a new generation that has never known open war ready for their part when the day comes.  Nearly 60 years of unresolved cease-fire will not hold forever, and they have to be ready.  If the border was flown open in chaos tomorrow the wave of refugees would overwhelm absolutely everything in their nation.

But in their minds, it must happen.  It will utterly drain South Korea, but they must imagine it so that when the time comes they can make it real.

This is the nature of a Romantic Era, a time when imagination calls to first principles of freedom and the power of the human spirit.  It is not easy, but it is invigorating to imagine revolution and liberation around the world as brothers and sisters of the heart are reunited.

When the question was asked in Barataria as to whether a new Romantic Era is dawning, the discussion seemed to resolve in a very illuminating way.  Readers argued that Romanticism has been a strong force in the developed world since the late 1960s, at times a dominate force but certainly always present as an undercurrent.  It is in the developing world that a new Romanticism is rising today.  The world is becoming more equal, more free, and generally more hopeful as it imagines a better world for its children.  That is not necessarily true in the developed world, where systems and cultures are collapsing in a sour mash of distrust and corruption.  The two worlds are relying on each other to cross into new era of some kind – one that will probably be led in spirit by the Have-nots and led materially by the Haves.

It takes a lot of imagination to see this through peacefully to a great new age on the other side.

There is no place where these two worlds meet more starkly than on the Korean Peninsula.  The death of Kim Jong-Il does not mean that chaos will erupt tomorrow or that Reunification is just around the corner.  But the Yin and the Yang of tomorrow’s promise, portrayed vividly in the flag of South Korea, are both starkly present.  It takes a lot of imagination to contemplate how this plays out, either when preparing for the worst or longing for the best.

Imagination of a better world is at the heart of the human spirit, and it is what Romanticism is made of.  The terror of militarism and civil war spilling out over national borders is sometimes what it takes to break the old order and fuel that imagination into something better.  Korea may be on the edge of showing us just what our imaginations can do when fully engaged.  And that is how a Romantic Era that crosses the skies and oceans takes hold – for better or worse.

The darkness does not last forever, but dark times well spent, full of imagination, are what make the light inside shine brighter.

15 thoughts on “Imagination

  1. Excellent blog, great sum-up and tie-in of our previous conversation. I agree completely that the rest of the world is sparking our imagination right now and I wish everyone the very best through this Christmas season. This a good time to reflect on these things and with all the possibility in the world I hope we can keep it all together.

    • Thanks. That is what I wanted more than anything else. I do think there is a new era dawning, and it’s being driven by the rise of “developing” nations. What that means we don’t know yet, but I am certain that things will continue to change.

  2. Your imagination is getting ahead of you in that North Korea is not going to fall tomorrow. But i know you like to get ahead of the news and I agree that this is probably a very big deal that we will hear about again in the new future. A united Korea is pretty hard to imagine right now though.

    • Fair enough – but I think the stage is being set for more revolution around the world. Freedom is very much marching forward and the worst problems are being resolved. Will Korea take many years to play out? It’s hard to believe it’s taken this long, but it has to. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about it for a while now, and yes, that is what I like to get ahead of in the news cycles. I’ll bet I’m not alone in the coming days.

  3. Interesting take on the news. I don’t know if this will lead to anything in the near future but leader’s are sure scared of “instability”. Seems to me that things have to be less stable before they change a lot for the better.

  4. I pray for people who have to live like that every day. We have so much in America we need to appreciate it. The least we can do is to help people who are starving because they are oppressed by dictators like North Korea.

    • This is a good time of year to appreciate what we have, isn’t it? You said it very well, we have so much and we should give back. I hope we have the chance to help these wretched people soon.

  5. To consider the future of North Korea is also timely in light of the impending 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union. The empire broke up on December 26, 1991. A year and a half earlier Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited the Twin Cities. A sign marking the Mississippi River was changed to one in the Russian language. In the summer of 1990 I knew Minnesotans who were cheering Gorbachev on in terms of thinking he was on the right track. There is of course merit in the idea of a slow revolution, but, then, that is reform. My man was a guy named Boris Yeltsin. Although the revolution was brewing on all levels of Soviet society since 1987, the revolution came from above. The Russian parliament had declared that their laws superceded those of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union lost support from it’s main client.

    I’ll be looking for signs of revolution in North Korea.

    • Thanks for the reminder on the anniversary – I will write on that, I think.
      As for revolution in North Korea, I simply cannot imagine the generals following a 27-or-so year old kid who inherited the gig from his Dad. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all. So I would think that something is inevitable – possibly very soon. But what direction will it go? Hard to say, since we know zip about the actors. I only wish it went as smoothly as Yeltsin made it, but I can’t see that happening. A mad dash for the borders as people flee a civil war is probably the best we can hope for – and that will be horrible.
      We shall see. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

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