In the shade of an oak tree somewhere down the road, a cardboard box sits upside-down. It is being prepped for departure to the moon, helmed by children squealing with delight, consumed by the world they have created in their minds. They are busily wielding hand-drawn controls, performing last minute fuel checks, and honing their “whooshing” sounds for take-off. For all intents and purposes, they are on their way to the moon, and no one could convince them otherwise.
How is it that as adults, we have relegated our cardboard boxes to moving day. Our imaginations may as well be stored in attics, slid under stairs – discarded, abandoned, ignored. It may seem for some that their imaginations have as much hope of being used as cardboard boxes have of space-flight.
A question has been stirring inside me lately: how did we come to misplace our imaginations?
One of my favourite XKCD cartoons [http://xkcd.com/150] has two people in an apartment overflowing with playpen balls, with one of them asking “what happened?”. The reply: “we’re grown-ups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.”
Imagination isn’t simply about living in a make-believe world, or escaping struggles and pain. Imagination is the ability to see that which is not immediately in front of us – to see things differently. I do not believe that we should so quickly relinquish imagination to childhood. We must continue to fight for and protect our ability to see things differently.
The difference post-childhood is in our ability to pair imagination with understanding. That is where the power lies. We must juxtapose the world in front of us with the world as it could be – not living in a dreamland, but firmly understanding the world as it is and then seeing how it could change.
If we live life not daring to picture the world even a little differently to the way it is, then we are being held prisoner to someone else’s vision. For some people, that is fine – and that is their choice. But I do not accept this for myself. I see how the world can be different, better, more just, more creative. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if we infuse our imaginations with action. All sorts of new possibilities will emerge where there previously wasn’t a way forward. The clincher: we have to take action.
If you are struggling to take action, not sure why seeing things differently is important, or even see change as a possibility, consider this: imagination is fuel for courage. Seeing brings clarity; clarity brings resolve; resolve brings strength; strength brings courage; courage brings change; change brings freedom.
The future belongs to those who can see it, and it’s our turn to decide what that means.
Cover photo: Reza Shayestehpour on Unsplash