Can You Imagine?
By Don Staheli

Don’t let the pressures of every day trample your powers of imagination.

Is it a rocket ship or just a box that used to hold something far more earthbound? Could that be a time machine or simply a large cardboard container? It all depends on your perspective and whether or not you’ve retained the ability you had as a child to look past the stark reality of an object to see in your imagination what it might become… and what you might become with it.

Imagination overcomes the laws of physics, sets aside the limitations of biology and environment, and allows the mind to soar into the ethereal realms of boundless possibility. What awaits you there is completely up to you.

I was reminded of this when my little granddaughter received a holiday gift. It was a delightful present that will give her many hours of pleasure. But no amount of fun derived from this toy will exceed what she received by playing with the paper in which it was wrapped. Heaven knows where she went with it in her imagination, but she certainly seemed to have a wonderful time as she tossed it, wore it like a wrap and then like a hat, used it to shield out the world, and occasionally peered mysteriously from behind it.

Watching her, I saw the wrapping paper transformed from a many-colored cloak to a nomad’s headdress to a mystical oriental screen. The look on her face said that exotic tales might be spun in her mind as the magical paper carried her about like Aladdin’s enchanted carpet. I hope she retains the ability to ride that marvelous rug of possibilities.

Reading helps maintain the place of imagination beyond early childhood. With great fondness, I recall the hours I spent as a young boy swinging through the heights of the jungle with friends Tarzan and his son, exploring the depths of the Great Barrier Reef with a couple of adventurous fictional boys, spending a hard winter in a rabbit den, and understanding Ben Franklin from the viewpoint of a church-mouse.

As adults, many of us have climbed the highest mountains, sailed the briny deep, and skulked through the shadows of the cold war guided by the writing of favorite novelists and stimulated by the smoldering remnants of imagination left over from the fires of youthful whimsy. Like any sweet, too much non-nutritional literary fantasizing can leave us underfed, but a little is mighty tasty.

Perhaps we lose too early our ability to travel the road of imagination. We become caught up in the demands of life, which force us to focus on the here and now, the concrete facts of our material existence. We are faced with stiff competition in almost constant efforts to come off victorious in a race with the clock, with fellow workers, with “the Joneses,” even with the natural process of aging.

Better face reality, kid, life is tough. You’re swimming with sharks out there. The guy in the next office, the junk food you love to eat, and gravity itself are all out to get you in the end. If you let down for just a moment, they’ll eat you alive! There’s a lot of imagination in such a warning, but somehow it gets lost in the fear spawned by that kind of advice.

A well-founded and highly respected personality appraisal tool, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator , assesses the way we prefer to see the world around us and how we process the information we receive in making decisions. Much like the popular assignment of dispositional colors (blue types, red types, etc.), the questionnaire inventories our preferences and helps us understand why we like certain ways of doing things and are uncomfortable with others. There is no right or wrong in the analysis, nothing particularly good or bad. Whatever your personality type, it is just fine.

Some of us prefer to spend the majority of our time with other people, while some would rather work on a machine that doesn’t talk back. A good share of us make our decisions based on an emotional response. Others are far more logical in their consideration and leave feelings out of the process.

There are those of us who base our appraisal of life almost exclusively on reason and the somewhat rigid analysis of what we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. If a matter doesn’t fit into our basic means of sensory discernment, we have a hard time giving it much attention. That way of dealing with the world is important in many situations, but for the intuitive person, that isn’t enough and imagination plays a more prominent role in life than mere facts. These individuals are less prone to be inhibited by the limits that appear to be imposed by self, setting, or science.

It is in balance that we realize the most and the best in matters of perception. The greatest results seem to come from a good mix of each way of deciding what is. Grounded in facts, the use of imagination has allowed for the development of such wonders as the electric light and the computer chip, and can take us to the bottom of a deep ocean canyon with Seusian fishes or into the airlessness of space where, quite literally, up and down do not exist.

In all of our acquiring, let’s spend a little time trying not to lose that which we have had since our toddling days, that with which we seem to have come naturally into the world – our imagination. Dally a bit, and don’t feel guilty about reading something that takes you, in your mind, someplace you’re not otherwise likely to go. Play with the wrapping paper. Toy with the cardboard box. Renew and remake yourself into whatever you would like, wherever you wish, and for as long as you need. The wonder of reality will only be enhanced by the creative force of your imagining and the unique, childlike you will shine a little brighter, like it used to.

A little imagining can expand the truth
and give new life to the power of our senses.

2006 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.