This is a post about imagination.
No, NOT that lot! Read on, I’ll try to be sensible for a minute.
Like most of the UK (and probably the EU too) I am completely brassic. That is to say, I am completely broke. I can just about manage the daily bills, although everything has been cut back to the bone, but there is nothing left for luxuries. As for Christmas, heaven knows what I will do, unless, of course, my positive thinking actually works and I win the lottery (fat chance!).
But this is not a whinge or a plea for sympathy – although if you’d like to send me a big fat cheque, then please do! The thing is, despite everything, I actually count myself as pretty well off. In the first place, compared with the majority of the world’s population, I am rich: after all, I have a roof over my head, food on the table, clean water, family and friends and no-one is trying to bomb me. I do not have to live in a an open sewer or have to traipse over other people’s rubbish in order to make a few pennies. Despite all that is wrong with our country, we at least have some safety nets that others around the world do not.
But that is not my main point. Secondly, I count my lucky stars every day because I have my imagination. With it I can be transported to different worlds and places and times – either in books that I am reading or in words that I write myself. I can be on the beach in some millionaires play resort or else dining with a king and queen at their castle hundreds of years ago. As an only child, growing up, I never felt lonely or bored because I spent hours just making up stories with my many dolls – or buttons. Yes, even buttons became fully fledged characters in my mind!
We all have an imagination to some degree or other – even those who swear that they don’t. I see it as a kind of metaphysical muscle: something that is developed throughout life, but starting in childhood. It is a muscle that grows from its ‘nutrition’ of play, painting, reading and making up stories; even listening to music and finding meaning within its notes. That muscle may then be even further developed and maintained by continuing and repeating those activities; practising them, getting better at them and, most importantly, enjoying them. But it can also be stunted by discouragement and disapproval, especially if that censure comes from family or school.
Imagination, and its twin, creativity are not just luxuries of the idle or useless – or artists, as they used to be called! They are the drivers of the evolution of our species. Without imagination we would not be able to problem solve, or have ideas. We would never have achieved so many things, invented so many inventions, made so many scientific discoveries. And just imagine (!) what our world would be like without art, books, architecture and music. All that came from imagination. In fact, it wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that the world that most of us are familiar with – for good or bad – is allthe result of someone or other’s imagination.
Wow. What power we all have in our minds then – whether we think of ourselves as artistic people or not. It is there waiting to be developed, used and enjoyed – and it can not be taken from us. We don’t have to become first class scientists with the answer to world hunger, or the next Man Booker prize winner (although obviously some of you might!). We can even just choose to let it doze quietly in the back of our minds while we spend our time on watching TV (where the imagining parts are done for us). The important thing though, is that it is there for us to use when we need it. On our darkest days, when we feel ill, or have no money left in the bank we can use it to transport ourselves to somewhere better. Like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, we can conjure images around us to turn any bare, drafty garret into a golden, room full of priceless furnishings, dry martinis, non-fattening profiteroles and a bare-chested hunk of a waiter (or is that just me?).
Imagination is free, but it enriches beyond measure.