Lack of imagination, how terrible an affliction! Is it contagious? Is it necessary to see a doctor? There is a surge of the disease in my neighborhood these days and I am familiar with the symptoms: sickening vertigo of the blank page; stubborn clinging to old, worn-out dreams; continuous, hopeful search for new models to emulate; desperate certainty that the grass is greener elsewhere; or a combination of these.
Give me an antidote! That is what I would think before coming to a few realizations recently, experiencing a cascade of rather dramatic events through close friends. These have shed a different light on the contamination and prompted a new idea: the symptoms above mentioned do not betray lack of imagination – the latter actually being a defense mechanism of the mind against this creeping evil I am trying to capture in words.
I had never questioned the fact that imagination is this long arm that makes it possible to sometimes caress truth, beauty and freedom. Indeed, aren’t scientists, novelists, people who survive in a prison of any kind, etc., all living in a separate dimension of their own creation, ridiculing the limits of the body and mind. Isn’t imagination amazing? It has no boundaries…
Or maybe it does have one. Giving my belief a little more thought, I cannot ignore that nothing I have ever imagined in my life was, is or will be. The limit of imagination is… reality.
I am sure most of you – my innumerable crowd of enlightened, glamorous and patient readers (right, mummy?) – want to raise your voice now: “Oh so what’s the big plan? Be as literal as possible. See things for what they are? Kill hope? Now, that’s sexy!” Well, that’s the plan indeed, unless you propose otherwise.
Question: what is the difference between a 6 year-old walking around with a magic wand, pretending to be a fairy or an enchanter and an adult entranced with romantic love for someone (s)he believes is just about to uncover treasures of unrealized potential after years and years of unsatisfying relationship?
Answer: there is none. In both situations, the organ they bring into play is their imagination.
What I am trying to say here is not that kids should not be given a magic wand but that imagination is misused by most of us who confuse it with vision. Kids may learn a lot through imagination but for sure adults hijack and enslave her. We put uninspired words in her mouth. We feed her with fake memories or impersonal fantasies and fears. We teach her jealousy and servility.
While writing this, I must admit I am struggling with my presumption that something one cannot imagine cannot ever be. I am scared that a tamed imagination equals “no future”, while that is precisely the solution. As often, the dictionary* knew all about it from the start. Imagination is at the same time “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality” and its object: “a creation of the mind”. Control is the spark that can fire this wild demiurge and the resulting make-believe can range from catastrophic to ideal but it cannot be more than an illusion.
Let’s not confuse the disease with the organ though. Imagination can also be the “ability to confront and deal with a problem”. This “resourcefulness” does not manifest when one floats in the illusion with closed eyes. Strictly speaking, there is finally no lack of imagination around me at all but a new interest and ability to picture reality as it is.
Imagination is dead. Long live Imagination!