Imagination and our better selves

When I was young and on school holidays, I used to push little toy cars around my house in a line, as if they were in a traffic jam, one after another. I’d use the weeks given to me in the summer, and I’d entertain myself in this way for hours. Each car would have its own personality, its own backstory, its own character. Sometimes the cars would travel as cars tend to do. Other times, the impatient commuter would race pass the ambling caravan, breaking my designated road-rules and igniting fury in the vehicles they’d overtake. Chaos would ensue.

There are at least a couple of ways of reminiscing about such games. One is to lament the waste of time in which I could have pursued more ‘worthwhile’ activities, resulting in a lasting benefit. The other is kinder.

One of the things I often find disappointing about adulthood is the tendency towards rationality, often at the cost of imagination and the joy found therein. It manifests as denial in the absence of evidence; proof or gedouddahere; science or it didn’t happen.

On the face of it, these are sound, logical principles, demanding solidity and logic as starting points from which to understand a framework of our world and of self. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Neither is it the case that adherence to these principles and utilising imagination are mutually exclusive.

But there does seem to be a certain trivialisation of imaginative concepts beyond our fervent, adult demand for Evidence, as if they’re fanciful, perhaps whimsical, lesser ideas that are to be considered inferior for lack of being subject to the judgement of proper scientific rigour and – more likely – our silent litmus test of commonality.

I find that disappointing.

As a child, I knew that the line of toy cars I was pushing around were meaningless, inanimate objects. The power of the fun I had didn’t lie in sincerely believing they were something they weren’t. Instead, it was found in the endowment I gave to what I was doing; the infusion of wonder and childhood pretence.

Growing older, we’re asked to put aside our childish notions, and attach ourselves to convention; to appreciate our limitations, accept what’s collectively regarded as real and adjust our perceptual capacity accordingly.

To be adult is to sacrifice magic.

Yet there is a difference between the things we can assume – perhaps even collectively agree – are ‘justifiable beliefs’ and the value of arenas which allow our minds to wonder. It doesn’t follow that the only things worth indulging ourselves in are those we can most fundamentally call ‘true’. I defy you to compare a child in their uppermost midst of imagination and an adult who considers such imagination as fanciful, and find me such an adult who’s fundamentally happier than the child. Is happiness not valuable? Should maturity be so boring?

We’re here for a moment and then we disappear. Our consciousness is a mere flicker, yet here we are imposing artificial value judgements on the higher faculty which is our imagination, and the magic it contains, as if allowing our thoughts to take flight is a juvenile pastime.

In the midst of the unknown lies all possibility. And the unknown is at the heart of our beautiful, collective mystery we label existence. So let’s allow our imagination to grow wings and transport us to higher, mystical plains, using our wisdom and experience not as an albatross but as a safe landing place. Magic exists according to our capacity to experience the sense of it, not according to its reality. It’s possible to be a grown-up and to be imaginatively unbound, reconciling our inner child in that way. What a healthy, holistic prospect!

So let’s leap, and pretend. Let’s dance, and create stories. Let us be unbound by limits on our imagination but instead embrace the magical awe of our improbability and use our togetherness to spread this potential  through openness, honesty and sincerity with each other, rather than criticism or cynical, limiting value judgements.

Our future is as bright as our capacity to embrace the level of being which will define our lives. Let’s free the power of our minds.

Imagination and our better selves

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