Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To teach imagination is to teach everything

(for my brother Mike on his birthday)

From the blog of Carolina Georgatou.
Even Einstein told us that imagination is more important than knowledge. How do we know where one begins, leaving the other to follow? I know as well as I know anything that without imagination we might still be cave-dwellers or fishermen terrified of the Earth's flatness. In a not very original comparison, imagination feels like flinging open the school doors and letting everyone run free, trusting they will find their place, acquire the information they need to reach their destination, realize there are no walls and no limits.

To dream BIG is an adventure. If the lands we seek are only in our minds, what of it? The realms of Tolkien or Baum or Bradbury may not exist on any maps, still they are as real to us as the corner drugstore in our hometown, much more real than what we may have had presented to us as the system's version of history - pick an era. If our brains were skyscrapers, imagination would be housed on the top floor. Not difficult to reach - there are express elevators - but easily missed because gravity or the status quo or someone's expectations or fears kept us from venturing that far from what we thought we knew. Mary Chapin Carpenter has a song called "Heroes and Heroines," in which she tells of risk-takers, people who are unfamiliar with the word impossible, and speaks of our American pioneers, choosing "...a life that's never safe and dry..." and I found those words resonated for me as epitomizing reasons why we may wish to stay uninformed, unenlightened. Imagination carries the possibility of risk and reward. Yet staying put has never been a guarantee of that safe, dry life, for I don't believe it exists. Fiction has given us examples that appear in everyday language, like falling down the rabbit hole, finding the entrance to Narnia or the road to Oz. Rod Serling's introduction to "Twilight Zone" episodes mentions imagination, in almost the same breath as he speaks of worlds "...as vast as space and as timeless as infinity."

Two of the three children in our family had imaginary friends and the third sibling lived a vicarious life through a sizable stuffed bear who had a flourishing literary career. I spent years writing dialogue in my head and wondering why, when the people around me spoke, they never used the words I'd prepared for them. Our parents followed creative paths, yet were not wildly outside any norms for their time. I no longer believe in ordinary as an inevitable state; I believe we each possess the capacity for the exceptional. One may choose ordinary but I don't think anyone who wishes to escape can really be stopped. In our minds we discover there are no limits, no walls too high, no thorn hedges too impenetrable, no world which could not exist if we gave it breath and light.

Dream huge. Stare out the window and let your thoughts run everywhere. Let the dam burst, the gargoyles take flight and twin suns rise in the morning. We are so much more than we know, unfettered, unhampered by time. We are the stories and the tellers, we are enormous, we are endless, heart-breakingly beautiful, fierce and wise. We will never be small again.

1 comment:

Erin Perry said...

What an inpsiring essay and a lovely gift of words during this season. My imaginary friends accompained me everywhere, in fact, they still show up now and then!
Erin in Morro Bay