A huge part of being human is imposing your will on reality. You could argue that all of the “big stuff” has been done. I disagree.
It is true that we live in a world of comfort and excess, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great things yet to be done.
The problem with our cultural cage of safety is that it inculcates us to accept the status quo and ignore one of the most fundamental parts of us being human, and perhaps our greatest gift: Our IMAGINATION.
After all, if you can’t see it in your head, you’ll never be able to make it be in the real world. And a culture stalls when too many people feel this way.
Imagination is a corny term, but this corniness is the result of bad marketing. Imagination for too long has been relegated to the realm of “kid stuff,” which ignores the vital role it has played throughout history.
- Would man have created laws and society without envisioning something better than he brutality of the wild?
- Would music exist without human beings bending air molecules to their will?
- Would space exploration be possible without the imagination to see how to get there, and survive when we do?
None other than Albert Einstein recognized the power of imagination, when he said, among other things, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
But the older we get, the more our imagination is beaten out of us. “Be an adult.” “Get your head out of the clouds.” “That’s gay/lame/for nerds.” And the end result is that we become happy with the status quo. We become complacent. We stop asking “Why?”
We cut ourselves and our children off from a fathomless source of power.
And yet, we idolize and revere the writers, the artists, the singers, the composers, the ones who make their living off of their imaginations. But at he same time, we marginalize them.
It’s as if we know something is missing in us, and we simultaneously celebrate and resent it in others. The story of why imagination is discouraged is an interesting one, but I’m more interested in how to get it back. And I think it’s easier than you think. Let me explain.
Have you spent time with a little kid recently? They’re making stuff up all the time. More importantly: They see connections between things that others miss. You know, the same way the best writers and musicians and artists do.
So am I recommending you get heavily into sci-fi or other works of imaginative fiction?
But even more so, I think it’s good to create your own.
I like to write fiction, for example. I’ve written severe novels and am working on another one. Maybe I’ll publish them someday. The important isn’t the publishing, it’s the doing. It helps keep this muscle active.
Write something–a poem, a screenplay, a short story–and stick it in a drawer. Or burn it, for all I care. But the exercise will teach you to stretch your mind and try to create metaphors or connections in ways you’re unused to.
It’s also a way to become a more well-rounded human being, a Rennaisance Man, if you will. There is no shame in dabbling in the arts, as like with most things, it will have positive spill-over effects in your life.
Much of creativity, after all, is about recombining preexisting things in new ways. Think about hip-hop and remix culture, sampling this and that to make something new.
Or how about composers like Bela Bartok and Antonin Dvorak, who fused Hungarian folk music and American black and Indian music with the Western European classical tradition?
The important thing is to take this attitude and apply it to your daily life, your job, your relationship, how you raise your children. Imagination is a muscle that can be brought back to fighting form. Remix your life.
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