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Cartoon: embracing imagination

The Near Infinite Power of Imagination

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

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If the soul exists, it is surely the imagination. Your imagination is what sets you apart from animals. It is what allows you not merely to be, but to see yourself as you are, as you have been and as you could be. Whenever you are offered a choice of options, it is your imagination that reviews them and decides which to choose. And when you breath your last breath, it is very likely your imagination that fills your mind with the vision that will be your eternity.

It is in your imagination that you reconstruct memories so as to relive them. It is in your imagination that you construct ideas so that you might live them the first time. Ideas are born, considered and built up into visions in your imagination. Once you have built such a vision and have shared it with me, I too can not only reconstruct it in my imagination, but I can play with it and change it in my imagination.

Children and Adults

Your imagination can run quietly in the background of your head or it can run full blast, creating ideas, playing with them, destroying them (painlessly) and creating new ideas. Imagination is most powerful in childhood. It is the seat of games, of play, of learning. As we grow older, sadly, we learn to reign in and control our imaginations. An eight year old playing with toys is cute; a thirty-eight year old doing the same is considered decidedly odd. Pity.

It is society's creative oddballs who continue to live in their imaginations in ways similar to children. Artists, novelists, composers, film-makers and others whose livelihoods − or very lives − depend on constructing bits of worlds in their minds keep their imaginations going strong. Those who are relegated to factory production lines, desks and meeting rooms are advised, albeit usually indirectly, to turn their imaginations down and focus on reality as perceived by their employers. Pity.

The Road Not Taken

Without regular use and exercise, the imagination atrophies. When life offers the unimaginative choices, they see fewer options and select the least unusual choice. In The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a wood,
 and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Yet, the truly imaginative see roads that others cannot see; they can hack out roads, in a wood, that lead to new places and new magic. The imaginative can visualise nonexistent roads and then describe those roads to others so that they too may see those roads. Then, with luck, an engineer will design the road and roadworkers will make it. The road of the imagination becomes the road of reality.

Imagination Evolution

Indeed, every road on the planet, from those of the ancient world to the highways of today, exist only because someone imagined it and then shared her vision so that others could also imagine it. The computer or tablet or telephone you are reading this upon is the result of innumerable imaginative visions stretching back in time to the caveman or woman who saw a stick or a rock and imagined in it as a tool . She built her tool and it became a reality that permitted others to see it and imagine it into more useful tools. The sharpened stone became a cutting device. The sharpened stone bound to a hefty stick provided additional leverage and gave the stone more power. Replace the stone with iron shaped like the stone and you have an even better cutting tool. And so on and so on and so on. That first stone tool is a the direct ancestor of device upon which you are reading this (or from which you printed this article onto paper) and that was made possible by millennia of human imagination.

Play Can Revive Imagination

So, what can you do if your imagination has atrophied? Is the situation hopeless? Not at all! You must bring your imagination back to life. Firstly, you must learn to play again. For it is in play that imagination truly achieves power and potential. Play frees your imagination from the constraints of reality and allows it to enter the realm of fantasy. So, give yourself permission to play. Play with toys. Play games. Play with possibilities in your mind.

Once you learn how to play again, you must give your mind the opportunity to play. Turn off your computer and put your telephone aside. Get out of your desk. Go for a walk and allow your mind to wander. Forget mindfulness and be imaginativeful. Let thoughts run around and play in your head and don't be afraid about where they go. Remember, it is just you and your imagination. You can have the most outrageous thoughts − and if you do not share them, no one need know about them.

Stop and admire the view and think about what you see and what you do not see, but which you can see in your imagination. Imagine exotic animals walking across the landscape. Imagine objects floating in the sky. Imagine anything you want.

Imagination need not be limited to fantasy. If you want to change your life, you must fist imagine that change. Then you must imagine the steps you need to take to realise that change. Then you can do it. All change starts with imagination of change.

Spend Quality Time in Your Imagination

Spend time every day in the realm of your imagination for it is the most marvellous place in the world. It is where your first ever thoughts formed and where your last thoughts will stay with you. It is where ideas are born and shared ideas are visualised. It is the creator of the next reality and all the realities after that.

That, my friend, is the incredible power of your imagination.

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium