(Indian in the Cupboard is a childhood fav… 10/10)
One Sunday this past summer, some children, teenagers, and staff of the wilderness camp I work at gathered on the floor of the outdoor gym to celebrate Mass. Families visiting the camp sat on the wooden benches on the sides of the gym. At one point in the celebration one of the little boys off to the left caught my eye. A rosy cheeked, brown curly headed kid that couldn’t have been older than four. As the priest delivered the homily and everyone remained engaged with what he had to say, I started to watch this little boy play in the patch of grass behind his parents sitting on the bench. In his own world. Wide eyed and slaying dragons. Making sound effects and creating a place no one else could see. Gosh I love that. He lost himself in his imagination. We were there, and he was somewhere else. I began to think about my childhood imagination. The superpowers, the villains, the victories. A time I lived in fantasy. What an unreal quality. A faculty of our minds which allows us to escape the world as it is, and enter into our own creation. Only to come back to what’s in front of us with new ideas, perceptions, and stories. How could I ever let this diminish?
The human imagination is a complex cognitive quality. There are many modes of the imagination, and I’d like to speak about a few of them in the future, but here I am concerned with the “imaginative fantasy” mode of the imagination. The aspect of the imagination that creates myths, fantasies, stories. New worlds that weaken the limitations of reality. Possibilities nonexistent in the material world arise in these new dimensions.
The imagination builds upon our perceptions. The information our physical senses gather, the memories, the unconscious. All of it. Everything we have experienced becomes the building blocks our imagination uses to construct new places. From what we see, to what we hear, to what we do. We use our interactions with concrete existence as a springboard to launch us into an ideal of nonexistence. We subtract the limits. Where we were previously unable, we are now able. Where we were trapped, we are now free.
Still, it seems like a phase of childhood. A way to liberate oneself of problems, stress, real life. Its for children, but they’ll grow up. Once they see the world in the greyscale of everyone else, they’ll realize their imagination may not serve a purpose.
Is it just a vehicle of escape providing nice feelings? Is the imagination not full of human meaning?
It is not entirely idealistic. The imagination allows humans to enter into the world in new ways. When all we know is the front of something, we are now allowed to see the other sides of it. The imagination takes us away from what is in front of us, only to come back with fresh ideas, perceptions, and values. The imagination allows us to problem solve. To face an issue and ask, “what if…?”. Whether you are a child or a business intern trying to prove yourself, we start with an observation or facts and ask what if it was actually seen in this light. Or used in this way. Or what if we did this instead of that. Humans are constantly rubbing up against reality with issues, obstacles, and questions. Our imagination is a tool by which we are able to solve these issues, overcome these obstacles, and begin the journey towards truth. The imagination is not appropriate only for children, but is essential to humans. Staring at things, marveling at possibilities, building upon what is there. We “imagine” things to be different. Because perhaps they could be. The magic is when these two things collide.
The concrete world is pure actuality. The world of imagination is pure potentiality. However, through human agency, we allow the two to coexist. We can create the imaginings in real life. Humans manifest the ideas in actual existence. The myths and fantasies converge with the mundane. Magic and realism. Neverland meets Earth, and Peter Pan can fly as a lawyer.