Dr Carlos A Raimundo
Member Rotary Mt Warning AM Dist. 9640

I joined Rotary a year ago inspired by many Rotarians whom I saw the dedication to practical service to those in need locally and abroad with a global impact. In one of the first Rotary Magazines, I received as a new member, I was captured by the word Imaginewith an internal response, “Wow! Clever!” catching my attention and stimulating o

ne of my hobbies, neuroscience. The theme, chosen by Rotary’s International pre

sident-elect, now President Ms Jennifer Jones, who said: “Imagine a world that deserves our best, where we get up each day knowing that we can make a difference.” President Jones’s v

ision is a call for reflection and action. She passionately invites regional governors, and each member, worldwide to embrace, build and breathe the vision.

It would be hard not to listen with our heart John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ and the iconic Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream,” or Mandela’s “I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself,” and Mahatma Gandhi’s dream for a “Free India without discrimination of any sort.”

Imagining is an intrinsic reflective human capability that enables us to transcend ourselves becoming closer to the person, society meant to be. Imagining involves not only action but being. A being that that needs constant imagining as it can often be dressed in heavy clothes. Re-Imagining who we are restores the inner DNA of any person and organisation to rapid adaptation, evolution and change. Imagine is an active dream that motivates the best of us to emerge with outcomes often beyond our highest imaginations. Imagining is freedom, breaking the shackles of dualistic mental restriction, moving from possible or impossible to “I’m possible,” and expanding personal and collective minds energised with creativity and innovation for heroic action.

Imagining is visualising “better times to come.” Imagine Rotary is an antidote to pathological types of “imagining” that put the world in further distress, chaos, pain, and suffering.

Rotary knows that just the idea of imagining is not enough, action is needed. The human skill of imagining is a capability of the human brain that can be used creatively or destructively. Rotary’s purpose is creativity in action. Imagine through service above self, that its’ responding with empathy to human needs. Rotary is an antidote to human selfishness.

Imagination and Empathy are two human capabilities that work hand-by-hand and are intrinsic to Rotary’s DNA from its beginning. Imagine Rotary is a call to continue the purpose of promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and protecting the environment. Empathy in action.

Everything happens in the brain
In my “wow” moment, I also connected Imagine with three brain centres, seeking, care, and play, discovered by neuroscientist Jack Panksepp.[1] He studied these centres in animals and found they are consistent in humans. The seeking system, when stimulated, seeks without a purpose. It is a centre that, when activated, makes the animal start “seeking” without seeking anything. We call it curiosity and wonder. In this curiosity, an animal ‘learns’ about its environment and ‘discovers’ sources of water, shaded areas, roads to scape, etc., that are stored in the brain in areas that do not use energy. The stored information will be available automatically in situations of need, such as drought, fire, and heat. Curiosity, research shows, I the spontaneous huger of a baby, often annoying to adults, of seeking, investigating, asking, trying. Care is a brain system that, when activated, produces oxytocin, and generates a need for closeness, affection, association, and attentiveness to those in need. Finally, Play is an innate function in nature and a tool to learn skills and new alternatives to crises and problem-solving. Play is done in a safe environment. For example, a kitten or an animal in the wild starts playing with little sticks, rocks, etc. to imprint movements of Play and defence that will be activated automatically in moments of hunger or safety. A great example is the Karate Kid’s “wax on wax off,” a movement that became an automatic action when needed. The important part of these centres is that they are not based on the pre-frontal cortex of the brain or executive-rational brain but in subcortical and limbic, emotional areas of the brain. These areas cannot be stimulated by rational thinking. They awaken through curiosity and play in expressions of spontaneity and creativity.

Imagining is a process of stimulating curiosity (the seeking system), making us aware of others, motivating empathy that inspires care through play, becoming Imagination in action. Sadly, curiosity and play are lost early in life. Many, including Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence,[2] attribute that to the educational system. We stop being curious and playing very early in life. As neuroscience tells us, imagination can only happen within a safe environment where play is the central agency as it promotes freedom, inclusivity, tolerance, trial and error, and heroic dreaming. Playing is not disorder, it’s sophisticated order. It’s spontaneous collective learning within organic parameters. It builds respect, inclusivity, and a not imposed leadership. Organisations like Google, Meta, and Apple have built their daily workspaces for curiosity and play. Through play they do not just adapt quickly to change, they create change. Play also includes a sense of celebration and joy, two emotions that are the ones that last the least in our consciousness. We can and must create a space of play, curiosity, care, celebration and joy despite circumstances or a changing and threatening environment, as experienced by Viktor Frankl[3] in a concentration camp. We need to learn how to celebrate. Celebration stimulates dopamine and serotonin which together increase oxytocin that build camaraderie and love fostering creativity.

This is what I’ve been experiencing in each of our Mt Warning AM Rotary meetings, where the process of imagining, dreaming, celebration and play has built togetherness and is attracting new members and delivering practical care for those close and beyond.

Play is a challenge for any organisation, especially for those with a long history of being in a certain way that has been successful, in the past, in so many forms but is facing the test of responding to new generations. Yuval Harari,[4] an Israeli historian, eloquently describes our current social change where younger generations have been moving away from traditional and formal organisations. It includes religion and, finding spirituality and purpose in mind, including the expression of altruism, outside the formal systems. The new systems cannot be defined with the same parameters we have used for generations. The continuously emerging forms are organic, changing, quick or immediate, informal, and difficult to be traced. Change is too fast to be replicated. Traditional organisations tend to seek change and growth within a close system of thought, putting new wine in old skins. Only through Play we can create open systems where change can happen even beyond imagination. Play gives space to not-knowing, to imagine differently, learning with and from others, depending on how we do it, we can flourish or atrophy.[5]

Imagine Rotary cannot be imagining without Play. Play and celebration will allow Rotary to imagine and experience transformation and adaptation through spontaneity and creativity. Moreno, the creator of Psychodrama, said: “We fear spontaneity in the same way that humans fear fire as they cannot control it until they are able to play with it.”

Imagination is fire. We don’t need to fear it; if we imagine through play, that it is imprinted in us, and it’s closer than we think.

But imagination is not enough. We need to reflect and discover what we’re doing, thinking, and feeling to move towards achieving what we Imagine and what stops or derails our plans and moves us away from our goals. These two forces can be discovered through play.

To put theory into action we ‘played’ in two Rotary Clubs using a 3-D Visualisation and Simulation technology called the Play of Life®[6] based on neuroscience. In this case it was a twenty minute exercise that has the highlights of a longer workshop used for strategy and planning.

The group in the Rotary Club meeting was divided into small groups guided through a process of “Imagining Rotary” in a year’s time. The imagining is done through playing using small figures and props on a template. The groups “create,” using figures and props, an image of how they Visualise-Imagine their Club in a year’s time. The use of figures stimulates nonverbal parts of the brain, allowing images that would be difficult to express verbally to emerge. The process was carried out in fun and interactively. The group reflected on the images created and described the dynamics, values, and achievements seen in the picture they created. But Imaging is not enough, we need to have an insight of what we’re doing or not doing that moves us towards and away from the goal, and act on it.

The ‘insight’ or discovery is again done through play using figures and props. There is a lot of sharing, fun and interactions in the process, and an image is created, that has an impactful meaning for the group. The insights motivate reflection then, in the hands of wise leaders, can become transformational change.

Now, may be more than ever, the time to Imagine Rotary through play. A time to stop adding new wine to old skins, solutions are closer to us that we believe, if we play.[7]

Imagine Rotary is a motivation to action, renovation, and transformation, which can not only assist Rotary to catch-up with time and change but continue being a change mover.

Let’s continue imagining, seeking, caring, and playing.

Dr Carlos A Raimundo

Adjunct Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, CSU University.
Carlos’ research is on enhancing insight and accelerating individual and organisational behavioural change.

Dr.Carlos@ActiveLearningInt.com 

[1] Panksepp, J. (2005). Affective consciousness: Core emotional feelings in animals and humans. Consciousness and cognition14(1), 30-80.

[2] Goleman, D. (2011). The brain and emotional intelligence: New insights. Regional Business, 94-95.

[3] Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. Simon and Schuster.

[4] https://youtu.be/Wb4FatkdErI

[5] Leslie, I. (2014). Curious: The desire to know and why your future depends on it. Basic Books. Pg 48

[6] Raimundo, C. A. (2002). The Play of Life-a Biological View of Its Impact on Behavioural Change. Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Psychodrama Association Journal, (11), 48-58.

[7] Raimundo C. New Wine in New Skins https://www.relationship.capital/2015/12/14/new-wine-in-new-skins/