Who likes to talk about art education and funding? Or, the validity of getting a BA? Or who wants to talk about streaming videos and movies on Netflix constantly might actually be a good thing?
What do all of these have in common? Why are all of these things important? Why?
There are even more imagination enhancing activities: children finger painting; adults watching a stage play; going to the movies; listening to a podcast; AND MORE!
And all of these things, all of these activities, are extremely important.
At first glance, is the imagination really something seen as vital to human existence? How many times do we say a child has a “big imagination” like it’s a silver metal compared to mathematical ability? How many times do we discourage people from getting a BA because it’s not “marketable?” How many times does art funding get cut off because it’s seen as a waste of time compared to vocations that physically “make” things?
My thesis is that imagination is really important. Really important—and anything that leads to building or improving imagination isn’t a waste of time.
To start on this path, I’d like to share the dictionary definition of “imagination”:
the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful
Wow. At first glance, this seems kind of vague. Like, any profession on the face of the Earth uses imagination to one degree or another, whether a person engages in artistic activities or not.
Sure, other careers have their own forms of imagination. Really, anyone with problem solving abilities uses their imagination.
But there are a few other uses of imagination that we might not have thought about originally, ones that are more important in the real world than a vocation or job.
You need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you understand them. Imagination is about forming new ideas, relating to things (or people) not originally found in your scope of knowledge. Maybe . . . learning about people who aren’t you? Maybe learning about people who make different choices than you? Maybe learning about people who are from a different social circle. You know what the root of empathy is? The root of empathy is imagination. Imagination is key in being empathetic—and, by extension, cruelty can be attributed to a lack of imagination. Therefore, engaging in artistic activities, watching characters on TV, reading about other countries and places, these all expand imagination and, by extension, empathy. Imagination makes us better people to one another.
This is a term anyone who’s written fantasy has probably heard before. You create worlds where there are new rules. You ask “what if” questions, like what if this world had no crime? What if this world had no need of the police? What if this world had no racism? What if this world didn’t have heteronormative definitions of gender? What if this world had no need of money? What if this world [insert scenario]. But here’s a big question: what if our world played by the same rules we imagined in fantasy? Why is it that in the real world, we look at things as set in stone? Why do we defend our current way of life when the power of imagination can help us build a new and better world? The principles are the same: ask that what if question. If you like the answer, then ask what it would take to get there. That requires imaging images, concepts, or external objects not present to the senses, or currently in the world around us.
Sure. Other professions require problem solving. But you know something? You don’t just need problem solving at work, or problem solving to make money. Problem solving is the most obvious use of imagination, but it’s also used for implementing empathy. Imagination isn’t about useless thoughts: imagination also allows us to think of creative ways to implement these thoughts, and enact positive change in the world. You have empathy. You world build. You problem solve and make the imagination reality. Imagination is about the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful. Resourceful. To change the world, can you think of a better skill than resourcefulness?
Imagination is important. It can us in more ways than one in our everyday lives. It has that potential—but, to get there, we need to understand that imagination doesn’t stop at our Netflix subscription. Imagination doesn’t stop when we put our books down. Imagination isn’t something we escape into. Imagination is a tool that we utilise. We learn about it in art—but then, we need to bring those lessons into the world we live in.
We need to better utilise the power of imagination.