What is imagination? Artists, writers, and actors use it to create their own worlds. Others use it to conceive of science fiction, then scientists and engineers make their dreams actual science. Imagination took human beings to the moon and one day, hopefully, it will take us far beyond. Dreamers dream of things yet conceived and then bring them into existence.
Imagination makes the improbable probable. It’s magic.
Imagination can also serve as a companion. To a lonely child or one living in poverty, it might be an escape where make believe friends come alive, where they can have the experiences more fortunate children enjoy. To anyone living in an abusive situation, it might be their only avenue for happier times.
A. A. Milne created Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh through his imagination. James Barrie did the same with Peter Pan and the lost boys. The Hundred Acre Wood and Neverland are fictional places, but they have provided countless readers, young and old, with incalculable hours of what may be their only happy thoughts. Is it a bad thing to have Pooh as a friend?
Many other writers have provided an escape for the lonely, even the fictional lonely, as in Dickens’ character of Scrooge when brought back to visit a Christmas of his childhood past. The young Scrooge was found alone in the boarding school, abandoned by all. All except for Ali Baba from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The young Scrooge was so familiar with Crusoe, he called him Robin. Those characters were alive for young Ebenezer. They were his constant companions and because of them, he was never truly alone. So, it is true for many in real life.
Is it a bad thing, this world of imagination? Oh, I guess if taken to an extreme, maybe, but should it ever be discouraged? Never would be my answer. The daydreamer in class might be the next Einstein. I’m guessing young Albert may have gotten caught staring out the window at school at least once. It may have led to his saying, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
One does not have to be a child to daydream. Imagination should not be limited to the young. We can all dream, we can all hope, and we can all find happiness in doing so. If we’re imagining a better place for ourselves, our families, our community, or our world, maybe that spark will inspire us to make it so.
Too often as we get older, we tend to forget how to imagine. We tell ourselves we have too much responsibility to waste our time on childlike things. Yes, I know we should have one foot planted solidly on the firm ground of reality. That should be our foundation and our basis for a sense of direction. But I also believe with all of our other extremities and all of our senses we should reach deep within ourselves and stretch as far beyond our reach as possible to imagine a better place for ourselves, a better community that tends to the needs of others, a better world where we take care of our planet, and yes, where we think about our leap out into the stars.
Imagination is never wasted. It might be limited. It might not always lead us to success. It might even get us in trouble sometimes, but no, it is never wasted. Sometimes it might mean a temporary suspension of reality. Sometimes for the sake of sanity, that may be the best course of action. Carl Sagan said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
What is imagination? My answer is it’s our essence, our conscience. Without it, humanity would be lost. We should encourage and nourish dreams. Imagination sustains us.
As for me, a world without imagination would be a world without Pooh, and that would be a sad, lonely place. Isn’t that right, you silly old bear?