How Practical is Imagination?

The word “practical” has several definitions which I “imagine” must be taken into consideration in answering this: likely to be effective in real circumstances or feasible; suitable for a particular purpose; realistic in approach, et cetera. Imagination is the faculty or action of forming ideas or images in the mind; or the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.

Keeping that in mind I absolutely know that at times my imagination is ridiculous, though I feel in those circumstances its purpose is to amuse me, or if I share it with others and if they listen, my hope is it triggers them to join in the crazy journey for the fun of it or to create something “out of this world,” maybe like Neil Gaiman does in his novels.

Imagination is an absolute necessity, and hence practical, in multiple practices, particularly in self-discovery, personal growth or mental health. For me, and others who engage in such practices, imagination is key to Gestalt therapy, shamanic journey work, and hypnosis. How many times have I descended that dark staircase, come to a door, and opened that door to discover what’s behind it — or what’s in my consciousness or unconscious.

My imagination has brought me misery in the form of worry — will my addicted children survive their addictions; why won’t my romantic partner answer his phone; will we survive the existential threat of climate change?  — but worry serves no useful purpose (though it can be an impetus to seek a solution), and I’ve learned to let worries hover in the background and get off the ride pretty quickly these days.

But imagination can have more practical value than just regurgitating concrete facts, which perpetuate a certain reality that is not serving anyone. John Lennon’s Imagine is the perfect example of instilling in every human’s mind that there really could be a world without countries, no religion, no war, no possessions, no greed, no hunger. With that seed planted, people might start actually contemplating that their clinging and regurgitating “my country, my religion, my whiteness, my possessions, my, my my” is in fact causing all the problems in the world and they might start contemplating a different world, and within that contemplation they see that the world really could BE AS ONE. Imagine living with less. Imagine sharing all we have, knowing there will always be more than enough for everyone if everyone shared. Without that seed planted, that shift in thinking, no changes will be made by me or anyone, so, yes, my imagination in that regard is very practical for the survival of humanity.

Imagination is absolutely necessary in order to read a novel, or even to listen to  classical music, but even modern music engages imagination. Though your imagination didn’t create these things, without an imagination you cannot take an author’s words and walk with them through the scenes and emotions depicted. Whether images are formed in listening to music or whether it’s simply emotions that have been stirred, the catalyst for either, I think, comes from imagination. The journey never starts without imagination. I know people who claim they just cannot read a novel, and they don’t. I know them well enough to see they dwell in a very concrete world, focused only on what they can see and touch, and they lack the ability necessary to be able to transport themselves into a world of imagination.

I believe imagination is the fuel to sexual excitement, with or without your lover, in just about every instance. So its practical purpose there is to ensure the continuation of the human race.

But of course, imagination is the key to the creative process. Imagination is the creative process. It is, for me, an idea or thought that frees itself from the conditioning that attaches itself to the thoughts that chatter in circles through my mind, plowing the same old, now infertile, ground. Imagination is creation in both its initial thought and in what it produces. It is both the seed and the chicken as it’s both a process and its end product. It’s the seed that brings a novel or film alive and takes us all on the journey in the non-concrete world, like Leo DiCaprio’s movie Inception.

It’s the inquisitive, imaginative mind that questioned beliefs: is the earth flat; does the sun revolve around the earth; will taking a bath cause disease; how do ants form such straight lines; how do bees find flowers or make honey; or what was the reason life split between plants and animals; or can mankind fly light years away to another galaxy? It’s the imaginative mind that thought up safety pins, paper clips, hairbrushes, paper, printing presses, photovoltaic cells, and, yes, nuclear bombs. It’s the imaginative mind that finds solutions to problems; it can conceive of a better way of doing things, leading scientists to new theories or discoveries that can serve (or destroy) mankind as those ideas are brought into the concrete world.

I don’t expect everyone or even a few to follow my fanciful flights of imagination, i.e., I am a Spoon, but I find imagination practical in regards to my life. Without an imagination I would not have benefited from my shamanic practice, hypnosis, therapy, or any other paths I’ve walked in search of undoing old myths that protected me when young but hindered me as I grew older. Without an imagination my creative writing would be nonexistent, nor would I have benefited from the fanciful thoughts of so many writers. Without an imagination, I would not have dared step off the ledge into the full slipstream of life, sailed the ocean, had adventures.  Without an imagination, I honestly don’t believe I would have found the peace and happiness I have in my life today because I would have believed the unhappy world in which I was born and raised was the only reality permitted; without my imagination, I would not have striven to let go, to surrender old, unskillful thoughts and imagine a more perfect world.

Just imagine.

Old Journals – Old Memories

I found an old journal from 1996 that I haven’t looked at probably since I stowed it away. Old memories. One of the first entries reads: “No one can play the strings of your song. I realize that now. I realize what I keep playing is your laughter. What I keep playing is your love. It’s you I play, not me.” Though I allowed it to be a painful time, I’m glad I recorded its journey where I had allowed myself to “fall in love” with the most unavailable — and truly the most gorgeous — man on the planet.

How did I deal with my pain? Exactly as I always have: I jumped on a plane and flew away, this time to Florida, by myself. These are the thoughts that I recorded in a brand-new journal.

Wind on the mountain
Freedom pushing
Strength resisting
Isolation
Solitude of the eagle,
Of the hawk.
Everything trying to merge and
Everything trying to separate
Wholeness held in one hand
Loneliness wrapped in love
Love not knowing its own face
Love not seeing, remaining
Undiscovered and unseen.

(I only write poetry when wounded by love.)

A mockingbird sings, looking for love to touch its soul too. I wait for the sunset in Key West. Still thinking of that man. Can’t get into him. Never will. Can’t get away from him. …But I will. The broad arm of a mahogany leans across the second story patio of Mallory Square, giving shade, but my skin is fried by too much sun.  I can’t feel its cool brush. There’s a gentle clatter of ceiling fans in an effort to move air that’s too tired to move.

At the Italian Fisherman, another day, I sit on a patio at the water’s edge. I watch garfish and cat fish being circled by one small barracuda while shadows of pelicans pass over. At the table next to me are two fat women who are bitching about work in Minnesota: that they’re not allowed to wear perfume. The light breeze brings to me a strong odor of overpoured perfume clinging to their clothes as if telling their boss, “Fuck you. Smell me now.”

Later, traveling across the Everglades, heading to Clearwater, I notice a man following me in a gold Subaru. When the highway becomes four-lane, he hovers next to me, turning constantly to stare at me. It creeps me out. My imagination runs wild, as I imagine him taking down my license plate, and though it’s a rental, somehow he will find out who rented it, telling the agency some story to get them to give them my address. Damn my imagination. I slow way down, visibly taking out a pencil and paper while I drive, letting him know to beware that I am now taking down HIS license. He finally drives on ahead.

There are Native Americans in the Everglades that still live in — or at least build — thatched huts of bundled cattails — like the one I built for myself in New Zealand — but they put tar paper across the peak. A canal that borders Highway 41 is dotted with fishermen. The shacks might be their fishing shacks. In the distance a charcoal cloud, heavy with rain, hangs above the swamp that extends to the horizon. I learned later that a jet crashed into the Everglades — not within my vision or point in time — but 109 people died. The nose of the plane, the plane itself, was buried 30 feet deep in the muck. If anyone had survived the crash, the alligators were waiting. Salvage was not discussed.

Farther west, I met the green fabric of fields woven into the blue fabric of sky from which (for whatever reason), I weave in a quote by Annie Proulx: “We face up to the awful things because we can’t go around them.” That man — that man that I came to Florida to escape — is with me again, like a needle stuck in an old record. I must face why I am attracted to the emotionally unavailable. I already know why I get on planes and fly away when my heart is hurt.

I’m airport watching now on my way back to the Northwest, leaving behind plastic-fantastic. Key West is a fascinating amusement, but overall I dislike Florida. Sitting at Delta Gate 54A, a 25-year-old, hidden behind sunglasses, tells me: “…I was 17 then. A long time ago. I was a day late. Didn’t matter if I was a dollar short or a day late, my parents would take care of it.” He takes off his glasses to clean them on his shirt and puts them back on. “But now,” he says, “it’s the real world.” Yes, it is, I think.

I glance away and see an old man, with trembling hands, eating a nacho with jalapenos. He drinks water,  it shaking in his hand, but suddenly he stands up and moves away from a young woman who’s drinking a beer, changing tables. Then he changes tables again. He’s moving yet again when a long-haired man with a beeper, looking at each beep, distracts me.

Another man, older, without a chin, is standing nearby. He keeps pulling up his overly baggy pants in a way that accentuates his penis and balls. He looks like a child molester. Two indiscreet Native Americans walk by, carrying ceremonial drums. For some reason, the man I’m trying to erase from my heart and mind re-enters, a constant thrump, like the river flowing over rocks and boulders on its way to the sea. Conversations distract me. “Where’s she going to stay?” a man asks. “In the States,” she answers, jutting out her jaw. I didn’t hear the rest as the conversation blurred into a man talking about back surgery to the stranger next to him.

Yes, there are windows opening constantly in the pulse of time. I take it in, like a grouper’s mouth sucking in the unsuspecting dinner. I notice an elegantly dressed woman in colors that accentuate her aged tan and silvered hair. She sits alone, watching also, her hand lazily drooped over the arm of the chair, while mine is scribbling in my journal.

And then she rises, as do I, when boarding is announced.