Why Imagination Isn’t Just Kids Play
Imagination reminds me of the rainbow Spongebob used to create with his hands; it’s cute, it’s funny, it’s make-believe.
Now, using our imaginations is a phrase we throw out when telling others to solve a problem or a desire to explain something without sharing all the nitty-gritty details.
“We need to get this proposal done by Friday. Just use your imagination.”
“Zoe told me that Michelle told Lawrence that Sarah did blank this weekend… use your imagination.”
As time goes on, using our imagination becomes an idea that’s used to define a scenario that holds little to no weight or we think of it as strictly reserved for kids play.
Putting imagination in such simple terms, we do an injustice to the deeper meaning behind imagination as well as giving up the opportunity to utilize our own.
What imagination is
Imagination is the opportunity to think about what we know in a different way.
Think of imagination as all the colors in Crayola’s mega crayon box. Imagination serves up perspective in many shades of color; one day maybe yellow, a person you meet at a cafe maybe a pink, your day at work may look red. No matter who or what your personal experiences entail, there is usually more than one side to every person and story; this proves even more true in our adult lives.
Imagination helps us solve problems.
The way we do business, the way we raise our kids, the way we do just about anything comes from a place of seeing our world in black and white. It doesn’t take long for each of us to understand there are many vast grey areas.
Like we talked about a minute ago, imagination is like a bunch of crayons in a box: there are so many colors from which to see the world.
When we continue to think of situations as one-sided, we are less likely to solve a problem efficiently and effectively. Instead of reaching the AHA moment, we get stuck and feel helpless.
Last week, we talked about what Stranger Things can teach us about fear. One of the points I made is that when we think from a child’s perspective, that is, more openly, we are better able to solve problems we face. When we decide to see the world from multiple points of view, no holds barred, we give ourselves the chance to be open with our problems and come out of them having learned something new.
What imagination is not
Imagination does not discriminate.
No matter our age, the place we live, or the circumstances that surround us; our imagination does not keep itself from us.
All imagination requires is that we open up and trust that it won’t let us down. Our imaginations won’t do the hard work for us, but they can provide a platform from which we can jump.
There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
“What if you fly?”
– Erin Hanson
Imagination isn’t just for kids.
In 1942, a newly married Victor Frankl, along with his family, was deported to a Nazi Ghetto. Two years later, Frankl and his wife were taken to the concentration camp of Auschwitz where he worked as a slave laborer.
In the spring of 1945, he and his sister Stella were liberated by American soldiers. The rest of Frankl’s family died in captivity.
Originally from Vienna, Frankl returned home and began teaching about psychological healing. Frankl believed that men were driven by a search for meaning. Through understanding their personal meaning in the world, it was Frankl’s belief that men were able to overcome their painful experiences. This led to Frankl’s well known and magnificent book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
Frankl’s conclusion that, “even in the most absurd, painful, and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that, therefore, even suffering is meaningful” led to the research that would eventually provide the basis for logotherapy.
Even today, logotherapy is based on the idea that life holds meaning and man’s search for meaning is what drives him even through suffering.
After being separated from his wife shortly after being moved to Auschwitz, Frankl writes of himself and other camp members:
We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: “If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
–Man’s Search for Meaning, Part One, “Experiences in a Concentration Camp”, Victor Frankl, pp 56-57
Whatever motivation or final wisdom looks like to you, hold it close; let it breathe life.
Imagination looks different for everyone. Frankl’s message isn’t saying this is the only way you’ll be happy and get over it because we all suffer, it’s providing you the choice to let your mind expand over and around a problem and come out not damaged or broken, but more alive than ever.
What does your imagination do for you? When do you find yourself using your imagination? I want to know.
Stay tuned for next week’s episode of Mine Space Over Coffee.