going beyond

I was talking with a graduate today about magical thinking.  I told her that I always believed the ocean was alive and liked me best.  I believed it was really there just for me, but that other people just kind of got to go sometimes.  I’d be lying if I said a part of me doesn’t still believe this.

In some ways, my imagination is evident.  For instance, I write.  I compose music.  I create art.

In other ways, it may not be quite so evident.  I have a rather bizarre sense of humor by anyone’s account.  Often, I’m left laughing alone at my jokes and random musings, while others just shake their heads in concern for my mental health.

I remember my dreams in great detail, which many people find rather curious.  When I was younger, I had several repeating dreams.  One dream in particular involved an old-fashioned town with a classic Main Street.  I knew not only the shops and streets of this small town, but the people.  When I would re-enter this dreamscape, the people knew me as well.  They were always glad to see me and we would pick up where we left off, with them telling me what they’d been doing since last time I was there, and I likewise.

My memories of childhood are not mainly of television shows or video games.  I had those in small degrees.  But my days were most often taken up with more imaginative ventures.

One favorite activity was using the old-style tape recorder and making “radio shows.”  My siblings and I would take on characters and then just ad lib interviews.  Often, because it was only audio, we could take on more than one character.   I’m not quite sure why, or who we thought she was at the time, but the interviewer was always “Dinah Shore.”  And from sheer nonsense to detailed versions of Jack and the Beanstalk, we were entertained for hours — both in the recording process and in sharing our production with others afterward, laughing until our cheeks felt as if we’d blown up too many balloons.

Another endeavor was to carefully cut from old magazines, such as Highlights or Ranger Rick, color pictures of individual objects that we could find: farm animals, trees and shrubs, pails, bowls, kitchen sinks.  It was very important that the sizes be in the same ball park. And we preferred a small ball park; tiny was fascinating.  It was equally important that the items be cut out precisely, with no white space left around the edges.  We would add these to an ever growing collection in brown lunch bags.  And then, when we weren’t cutting, we would set up scenes.  First, we would lay out some construction paper (usually light blue and green, to approximate sky and grass), and then we would fill the scene with stories from our bag of cutouts.

Yet another popular pastime was making elaborate 3D shoebox dioramas, with everything inside having been hand made from construction paper, markers, clothes pins and other various craft items.  Sometimes, we would cut a strip out of the side of the box (the bottom of the “scene”) and make our own finger puppet shows.  One notable diorama is the one we made of the Muppet Show.  We would watch the show religiously, and every detail had to be the same.  We were fastidious about accuracy.  And about missing characters.  “Oh, look at that guy in the back there!  We don’t have him yet!”  And we’d go to work making him, to add to the rest.  For this set, two shapes were cut out for each character — one for the front and one for the back.  Once drawn and colored, the two pieces were hand sewn together around the edges, with a little bit of cotton in the middle to make it 3D.

In my post entitled “wonder,” I let you in on the early belief that I could communicate telepathically with animals.  But it wasn’t just animals.  My sister and I would pretend that we were a sort of Zan and Jayna duo.  When our wonder twin powers were activated, however, she didn’t turn into a brontosaurus.  I didn’t take the form of an ice bridge.  Our power was communicating with nature.  So while Aquaman may have ruled the oceans, we got the whole shebang.  We would stick leaves in our hair and then go around our yard just talking to birds and squirrels and worms and bushes.  I suppose, beyond being exciting and imaginative, feeling that everything around us was in harmony made for the feeling of a pretty safe yard.  I mean, should anyone ever try to harm us, obviously every living thing nearby, from deer to creeping vines, would protect us.

I no longer put leaves in my hair, but some of this thinking has lingered into adulthood.  I mentioned my magical connection with the ocean.  I’m afraid there’s more.

I mentally talk to Christmas trees during the selection process.  I always choose one that isn’t quite right and who may otherwise get left behind.  I let it know that I chose it  for its uniqueness, because no one else would have a tree quite like it.  I express my appreciation many times while it lights up my home, often while I am watering it.  And I always thank it and say goodbye when the season is over.

I also do not kill spiders, crawlers or stinging insects.  I capture them by carefully placing a glass over them and then sliding an envelope or other stiff paper between the glass and the wall or floor (careful not to injure their legs), and then let them outside.  If it is winter, I bring them someplace inside that would make a nice temporary home.  Or I just let them stay right where they are.  You see, if you are kind to insects, they communicate this to each other, and that puts you on the “no hurt” list for miles.  It’s quite an extensive network.

By the way, I’m afraid it works the other way, as well.  So if you are a “squisher,” while your victim can no longer send out the APB itself, other insects who come across the remains or smell of a squished comrade spread this news about you.  Beware…

Why am I telling you all of this?  It’s really not a cry for help.  No intervention needed.  I promise.

My brother recently lamented, in response to the post entitled “waiting“:

I hate what technology has done to the world.  It’s made everything “less” fun.  Imagination has taken a backseat… I’d love to buy a cabin in the woods, and live completely off the grid for a few years. Communicate through nothing but snail mail. Give the kids the “Sears Catalog” to look through for Christmas present ideas… Reading books at the beach … or walking to the shopping village … sitting and talking, and not texting. Working out problems in person …

And his livelihood depends on one of the largest technology operations in the world.

It does seem that the more electronic “brains” advance, the less we have to use our own.  Video games continue to become more and more realistic; yet, while they create truly amazing fantasy worlds, they leave nothing to the imagination.  And the recent talk of paper books becoming obsolete sets my skin to crawling.  What will become of us without imagination?

Imagination allows us to go further in problem solving.  Inventions from horns to hovercrafts are here because of imagination.  Without it, we quit when the first prescribed approach doesn’t work.  So maybe we don’t want to be an inventor.  But what of marriages? The ability to problem solve is integral to all aspects of life.

Simple pleasures are often enhanced by imagination.  The Christmas season.  Fireworks.  A haunted hayride.  Even romance requires imagination.  Think about it.  How far can another dinner and movie rental go before they become stale?

Hope itself relies on imagination.  Without imagination, we see only what is and not what could be.

It seems many adults feel that imagination is for children, a slight somehow to their grown-up intelligence.  But, whereas understanding X as X may certainly require intelligence, seeing X as a possible Y, Z or requires more intelligence, not less.

I think my brother was onto something.  While I don’t think moving to a cabin in the woods is best for everyone, I do believe we can all benefit from identifying “imagination thieves” in our lives and limiting or counterbalancing them.  It’s not easy at first.  But by making time in our lives for ventures — adventures — that feed our creativity and imagination, we will see an upward spiral of positivity and enjoyment in our lives.

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