Why Is Imagination So Important?

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This is the final installment of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

You were born a philosopher. As a child, you spent hours beneath the stars, hypnotized by the transcendent mysteries of the cosmos. But with age came the people who told you it was time to grow up, that it was time to shed your imagination like a used skin so you could focus on more pragmatic concerns. You always secretly thought they were wrong, that you should never trade your fantasies for an ordinary life. But the world would always bear down on you with its facts and figures, wearing away at your soul like a grinding stone until you began to crack and buckle around the edges.

You never stopped using your imagination, but you did begin to keep it to yourself, afraid there might be something wrong with you, afraid you might be defective simply because you’ve always managed to see the world differently. A part of you wondered if the world had been correct, if you would have been better off abandoning artistic pursuits for more worldly endeavors.

You probably asked yourself, “Why is imagination so important?”

Imagination is a lamp set before us to light the way.

The universe is a mystery. Most of its secrets remain untouchable, impenetrable, making it a frightening place where all we can do is stumble around half-blind in the dark. Imagination is the light that dispells this darkness, making the cosmos accessible. It’s a mental framework, a way of perceiving the world. It doesn’t claim to know the answers, but endows us with the creativity necessary to discover them. Through fantasy, the enigmas of life and existence are revealed, making us better equipped to relate to reality.

Imagination is a covenant between the Universe and Man.

It hints at what lies beyond the horizon and assures us that all the universe has to offer can be ours if only we have the courage to pursue our dreams. It’s a promise made to us by a faithful cosmos, and through the years, this promise matures into a confident trust in the unknown, a sure belief that the world is fundamentally ordered and that one day we will know the answers to our deepest questions.

Imagination is a mentor.

It precedes every great discovery. It teaches not through rote memorization or blind adherence to established doctrine, but through hands on experience, passion and dedication, instilling within us a profound yearning for the Truth. It teaches us how to reach beyond the obvious to grapple with things we don’t fully understand, enabling us to cast our minds into the darkness like a fisherman’s net to capture something new.

And once we’ve hooked a mystery, we can use logic and systematic thought to reel it in, for imagination and reason are not contradictory but complimentary forces. Like the synthesis of body and soul, the fusion of imagination and reason is a sum much greater than its parts.

Imagination teaches us to love.

It sparks in our hearts a curiosity that drives us to learn about other people, and it gives us the unique perspective necessary to discover in an ocean of differences all the things we have in common. This understanding blossoms into empathy, so that it becomes possible for us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Imagination facilitates creation.

It allows us to picture things not just as they are, but as they might be. Guided by this internal vision, we can shape and mold the universe according to our designs, so that we become manufacturers as well as consumers of reality.

Imagination is life-giving.

It’s a wellspring of potential energy, a supernova of the heart, an explosive force that illumines and breathes life into the cosmos. It transforms us, orients us toward a more perfect union with the world and its creator.

To turn our backs on fantasy and the imagination is to turn our backs on the Universe, to slowly wither and die, cut off from the cosmic vine that sustains us. We must not let the cynical voices of the world discourage us. Rather we must venture forth into the dark unafraid, so that someday, we can find the answers we seek, so that someday, at long last, we can discover the meaning of our existence.

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Ex Nihilo, Part 3: The Rough Draft

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Part three of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

Almost there.

Finally, after a ton of freewriting and brainstorming, after racking my brain for hours trying to conjure up enough relevant ideas to cobble together a blog that will hopefully interest and inspire my readers, this is where everything comes together.

I admit, I’m a little embarrassed to share an early draft with you. As I mentioned in the introduction to the series, these are the things you were never meant to see. This is the rabble I quietly brush aside backstage when nobody’s looking. I felt all right sharing my freewrite and organizational notes with you, because those were far enough removed from the final result that I wasn’t afraid of being judged negatively. The rough draft, however, is something else entirely.

Rough drafts are bad. Really bad.

They always are. Even in the exceptionally rare case where I feel utterly inspired, where I’m able to go from start to finish without feeling like a complete fool, I’m soon humbled when I review my work a few hours or a few days later and realize how poorly executed it was on the first go around.

This is normal. Writing the rough draft is like forming a pot out of clay: you can’t make it pretty until you’ve captured the shape. Only when you have a rudimentary structure can you begin to iron out the lumps and the creases.

But the potter doesn’t share his half-baked pots, and I don’t ordinarily share my poorly written rough drafts, which are so crudely constructed that they could have been written by a second grader.

Anyway, here it is, in all of its flawed and imperfect glory.

Enjoy, and try not to think me too daft…

Does Imagination Matter?

We live in a world of data. We exist cocooned in a nest of numbers and formulas, of figures and facts. We’re often taught from an early age that our world view is worth nothing unless it’s rooted in fact, that imagination has no place in our minds, that it displaces other more noble and worthy endeavors. We look around at the world around us, so hostile to the internal force we yearn to satisfy, and we shrug our shoulders, wondering if perhaps they were right, if we might as well pack up our artistic pursuits for more worldly endeavors.

We gaze about us, and we ask ourselves, “Does imagination matter?”

Imagination is a lamp set before our feet.

The universe is a mysterious place. Many of its secrets remain hidden and unknown, untouchable, impenetrable. It’s subsequently a dark place, and we’re left to stumble around half-blind, with only our limited perceptions for a handrail. Imagination is an illumination reaching out into this darkness, showing us a way forward. Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving a world filled with mysteries. It doesn’t claim to know the answers, but provides the creativity necessary to discover them. Imagination is a unique perceptive power that allows us to see what isn’t there, giving us the ability to make sense of the inexplicable.

Imagination is the impulse that drives us forward into the dark unafraid.

It teases us with promises of what may lie ahead, assuring us that all the universe has to offer and more can be ours if only we have the courage to pursue it. It’s a taste, a hint of what’s to come. It’s a way of looking at the world, a covenant between the Universe and Man.. It is our motivation and our inspiration, a confident trust in the unknown, a faith that the world is fundamentally ordered and that we can understand it if only we dare to reach out.

Imagination is our guide.

It bridges the gap between what is and what may be, leading us to new life. Through fantasy, mysteries that hitherto held little interest captivate us, forcing us to give chase, and thereby ultimately leading us toward a love of what’s real. Through our imaginations, we find that we’re better equipped to relate to reality.

Imagination is our mentor.

It precedes every discovery. It teaches not through rote memorization or blind adherence to established doctrine, but hands on experience, through passion and dedication and a profound desire for the Truth.

Imagination teaches us to love.

By dreaming about other lives, we become curious. By becoming curious, we become driven to learn more about others. By learning more about others, we foster understanding. By fostering understanding, we develop empathy. And by developing empathy, we learn to love.

Imagination teaches us about reality.

It allows us to reach beyond the obvious, to cast ourselves out into the darkness like a net to grapple with things we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached out and hooked a mystery, we can make use of logic and reason to slowly reel it in.

Imagination and reason are not contrary but complimentary forces, each of which must be given equal weight. Imagination is the fire that drives our pursuit of the truth, while reason is the vehicle that gets us there. Like the synthesis of body and soul, the synthesis of imagination and reason is a sum that is much greater than its parts.

Imagination facilitates creation.

We not only discover reality, we manufacture reality. Imagination allows us to picture things as they might be, and by shaping and molding the things around us, we alter the universe to match the pictures in our heads. It is through this creative power that we play the rather odd role of being both subject to the Universe and its author.

Imagination is a supernova of the heart.

It’s a wellspring of potential energy, an explosive force that illumines and breathes life into the cosmos. Imagination transforms us, orienting us toward a more perfect union with the Truth, and through this union we find the source and summit of our life.

That’s it. Next week, I’ll conclude the series by posting the final version of my next blog.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

The war within myself rages on1, but today the soldiers have set their guns and their bayonettes aside to observe a day of silence.

For the first time in a thousand years, the air is still. I breathe it in, deep, full of life, remembering the boy I used to be before self-knowledge shattered the peace.

There are no mortar shells bursting in the air. There are no bullets zipping through the air, piercing holes, sapping the life blood from my ravaged psyche.

There will be no peace until the day I finally take the bullet meant for me; there is no rest for the wicked.

But today, today I can pretend.


Footnotes

1. I would like to tell you more about where this one came from, but it’s very personal. I usually like to provide context to my freewrites, but this time I’m going to let you figure it out for yourself.

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Ex Nihilo, Part 2: Organization

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Part two of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

Disclaimer.

Ordinarily, the steps between my freewrite and my rough draft are an indeterminate blur. I don’t sit down to write a formal outline, nor do I adhere to any specific method to get the job done. I prefer to mold my words like clay, gradually transforming bits and pieces of my freewrite and the emerging structure inside my head into a comprehensible whole. Nevertheless, for the sake of illustrating (however imperfectly) what I go through during this process, I’ve decided to try and condense my intermediate thoughts into a tangible set of notes.

Reviewing and organizing my ideas.

In last week’s installment, I told you that I like to flesh out a new blog by writing down as many associations as possible, regardless of how they relate to each other and regardless of whether or not they make sense.

Once the dust settled and I was able to come back to my blog with a fresh perspective, I reviewed what I’d unearthed, taking survey of the raw literary ore that stood before me so that I could figure out how to transform it into precious metal.

Finding a theme.

I always search for some fundamental concept that unifies the majority of my thoughts, giving my embryonic blog form, purpose and direction. I sat down at my desk with my freewrite in front of me, banged my head for a while in frustration, and eventually came up with some ideas. Here are a few of them (not an exhaustive list):

  1. Imagination is a necessary and indispensable part of the human condition.
  2. Imagination is the force that drives progress.
  3. Imagination is how we make sense of the world.
  4. Imagination described as a magic power.
  5. What is imagination?

I wanted a theme that would 1) give form and substance to my freewrite, 2) be interesting, and 3) relate directly to my readers as individuals. I considered number five, as it easily satisfied the first condition. But I thought about it for a bit and decided it would be too easy to create a bland point-by-point description that would bore my readers and send them away to the next thing. I wanted my blog to develop. I wanted to lead my readers down a mystical road that would ultimately end with some kind of explosive climax.

Then I considered combining five and three, and came up with the idea of presenting imagination as a launching point, the beginning of a journey that culminates in a greater understanding of reality. I thought that by leading the reader along this journey, I could create the kind of developing topic I was looking for and satisfy the second condition.

That left me with the third and most difficult condition. I needed to tweak my theme so that it would speak personally to each of my readers, then distill it down to a single title that would jump out from a person’s newsfeed, demanding to be read.

Satisfying that third condition is exceedingly tricky. I still haven’t found the solution for my upcoming blog, and I’ll most likely have to figure it out as I’m writing the rough draft.

The outline.

In the end, by cannibalizing my freewrite and combining it with my emerging theme, I cobbled together the following rough outline, which I’ll refer back to when I work on the rough draft for Part 3.

1. Our vision of the universe starts with a spark, a lamp set down at our feet to guide the way.

  • Imagination inspires us. It’s a fire in the soul, burning. Radiant. Irridescent. Yearning.
  • Imagination is a light reaching out into the darkness, giving us hope and light.
  • Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving the world. The world is full of mysteries. Through imagination, we make sense of the inexplicable. A framework. A bulwark. A perceptive power. Imagination, like love, is a unique kind of magic (can link to “How is Love like Magic?”)

2. Imagination is not only the lamp set down at our feet, but the impulse that drives us forward into the darkness unafraid.

3. Imagination leads us through the dark, guilding us.

  • Imagination is our way to make sense of the inexplicable. Imagination is the ability of the human mind to assign meaning and understanding to the unknown. Imagination is a way of looking at the world, a confident trust in the unknown, faith that the world is fundamentally ordered, faith that the world can be made sense of if only we try.
  • Imagination gives the unknown new life. Imagination helps us to relate to reality. Through the fantasies that we imagine, we find that what was previously ignored because it was unknown has suddenly captivated us, and we want to learn more. Therefore, our imagination is what leads us to a love of what’s real. Imagination is the front door, the gate by which we enter a world of knowledge, for without imagination, where and how do we find the inspiration to move forward through the dark?

4. Imagination precedes every discovery. It is the mentor who teaches not by rote memorization of facts but through hands on experience, through passion and dedication and a profound desire to discover the truth.

  • Imagination is a taste, a hint of what’s to come, a promise, a covenant between the Universe and Man.
  • Imagination allows us to reach beyond he obvious, to make a wild leap of faith, to reach out into the darkness and grapple with that which we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached into the darkness and taken hold of something hitherto completely unknown and unexplained, we can use reason and logic to follow its trail, slowly approaching it while we continue to grab ahold of it with our imaginations so that eventually we can fully illumine it and more completely understand the Truth.

5. Imagination does not operate counter to reason, but as a complimentary force, the passion that drives discovery.

  • Imagination is not opposed to cool-headed reason: the two are complimentary forces that must be given equal weight. Imagination is what provides the fire and the passion behind our pursuits; cool reason and logic are the vehicles by which we make our dreams come true. Together, the soul of imagination and the mechanics of logic and reason, we do wonderous things. (Can probably link to “How can I rediscover the magic of childhood blog.)

6. Imagination brings fulfillment to the human experience. It gives us the passion we need to pursue the truth in a creative way. It inspires us to live. It inspires us to love.

  • Imagination makes us able to love. How does it make us able to love? Imagination helps me to love by…I don’t know, but helping us to imagine what the lives of others must be like. Yes, imagination helps us to discover what another’s life might be like. It makes us empathetic. Imagination gives us a foretaste of what life is like for others, making us want to reach out to ask more questions, which in turn leads to a greater understanding, which ultimately  leads us to love.
  • Understanding and empathy

7. Imagination inspires us to create, to play a role, however small, in the making of the universe. In this way, we find ourselves both subjects of the Universe and its authors.

  • Let there be light. Light, the creative force behind the making of the cosmos, which exploded into life from nothing, the ultimate act of imagination, the most abundant use of this magical force. We are imitators in this sense. In this sense, we literally reach out into the void of nothing and come back with something. Imagination is the extraordinary power that can transform nothing into something, that can fabricate entire lives, landscapes and civilizations ex nihlo. – Imagination then is a constructive force, a power by which creation is achieved. – Imagination is a well-spring, an inexhaustible source of transformative and rejuvanitive energy.
  • Creativity and imagination: acts that come from these are a mini creation. Just as God created the universe form nothing, and just as it subsists in itself, so too do our stories come from the ether of our minds, and subsist within us. Quote from Tolkein about writing being an act of mini-creation.

Conclusion: “Becomes a supernova of the heart.”

Next week, I’ll talk about the rough draft.

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Friday Freewrite

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What’s Friday Freewrite? Find out here.

When it comes to art, what is the artist but a mere vessel, an empty chamber which passively receives all the many shouts of the world and magnifies them, combining them into a single echo, a convolution of existing thoughts that only seems original in its unique combination?


Einstein’s theory of relativity was incomplete. Time dilation didn’t just occur at relativistic velocities, but in moments of extreme fear and anxiety. And in these cases the effect was much stronger, more prevalent.


As a writer, my characters influence me. Is it like that with God in relation to man?1


“I want you to lie to me,” he said brusquely, reaching to undo her bra straps. “I want you to tell me you love me.”

“Why, baby?” Her lips brushed against his ear. Her tongue gently probed its surface, exploring uncharted terrain that it would never see again.

“Just do it,” he said. Unseen tears dotted the corners around his eyes. “Say you love me. Lie like you mean it.”


Footnotes

1. I sometimes think of God as if he were a writer and we were the characters in an unfinished novel.

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Ex Nihilo, Part I: Conceptualization

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Part one of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

The Idea

My blogs typically begin with a single thought, some feeling or sensation that I want to cultivate and grow. It’s not usually well defined, only an abstract vapor meandering through my mind without form or substance.

For this particular blog, I had the sense of something magical, something mystical and otherworldly, something that evoked a primal sense of awe and wonder. The emotion captivated me, and I wanted to go deeper.

Freewriting

When an idea takes me, my next step is usually to sit down and freewrite. Freewriting is a way of loosening the mind, of bypassing the filters that ordinarily get in the way of ideas so that you’re free to make associations. It’s like dynamite. It rocks the foundation of the mind, shaking loose a bunch of intellectual ore that can be sifted and refined into polished writing.

I began by typing a series of words that I associated with my initial feelings. Gradually, those words began to coalesce into sentences and paragraphs. I eventually connected everything to the power of the imagination, and used that final association as a launching point for generating ideas.

Freewriting is a messy process. There’s no structure, and things don’t always make sense. It’s only literary precursor, and is ordinarily a private endeavor. Today, I present the freewrite for my next blog, whole and unedited.

Fantasy. Bizarre. Strange. Wonderful. Vibrant. Irridescent. Luminescent. Bioluminescence. Shimmering. Shining. Bright. Star. Burning. Nuclear explosion. Supernova of the heart. Mind. Eternal. Shadows. Ethereal. Darkness. Good vs. evil. Plight. Benediction. Worship. Fire. Burn. Blaze. Cosmic flames. Tongues like seprents, licking the sky. Candle. Fire. Flame. Sparkle. Gold. Glitter. Gold. Silver. Ore. Platinum. Precious metals. Gems. Jewels. Prize. Imagination. Flicker. Sputter. Cough.

Imagination. Imagination is a fire in the soul, burning. Radiant. Irridescent. Burning. Yearning. Imagination. Beautiful imagination. Imagination is our way to make sense of the inexplicable. Imagination is the ability of the human mind to assign meaning and understanding to the unknown. Imagination is a way of looking at the world, a confident trust in the unknown, faith that the world is fundamentally ordered, faith that the world can be made sense of if only we try.

Imagination is a light reaching out into the darkness, giving us hope and light. Imagination makes us able to love. How does it make us able to love? Imagination helps me to love by…I don’t know, but helping us to imagine what the lives of others must be like. Yes, imagination helps us to discover what another’s life might be like. It makes us empathetic. Imagination gives us a foretaste of what life is like for others, making us want to reach out to ask more questions, which in turn leads to a greater understanding, which ultimately leads us to love.

Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving the world. The world is full of mysteries. Through imagination, we make sense of the inexplicable. A framework. A bulwark. A perceptive power. Imagination, like love, is a unique kind of magic (can link to “How is Love like Magic?”)

Imagination gives the unknown new life. Imagination helps us to relate to reality by…by what? Imagination inspires us. Through the fantasies that we imagine, we find that what was previously ignored because it was unknown has suddenly captivated us, and we want to learn more. Therefore, we imagination is what leads us to a love of what’s real. Imagination is the front door, the gate by which we enter a world of knowledge, for without imagination, where and how do we find the inspiration to move forward through the dark?

Imagination is a taste, a hint of what’s to come, a promise, a covenant between the Universe and Man. Imagination is…imagination is…Not sure. Must think some more.

Imagination is not opposed to cool-headed reason: the two are complimentary forces that must be given equal weight. Imagination is what provides the fire and the passion behind our pursuits; cool reason and logic are the vehicles by which we make our dreams come true. Together, the soul of imagination and the mechanics of logic and reason, we do wonderous things. (Can probably link to “How can I rediscover the magic of childhood blog.)

Imagination gives fulfillment to all of our human endeavors. Imagination allows us to reach beyond he obvious, to make a wild leap of faith, to reach out into the darkness and grapple with that which we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached into the darkness and taken hold of something hitherto completely unknown and unexplained, we can use reason and logic to follow its trail, slowly approaching it while we continue to grab ahold of it with our imaginations so that eventually we can fully illumine it and more completely understand the Truth.

Let there be light. Light, the creative force behind the making of the cosmos, which exploded into life from nothing, the ultimate act of imagination, the most abundant use of this magical force. We are imitators in this sense. In this sense, we literally reach out into the void of nothing and come back with something. Imagination is the extraordinary power that can transform nothing into something, that can fabricate entire lives, landscapes and civilizations ex nihlo.

Imagination then is a constructive force, a power by which creation is achieved.

Imagination:
– Inspiration and passion
– Vision and ability to make new connections between non-obvious things
– Understanding and empathy
– Creation

Abstract.

Imagination is a well-spring, an inexhaustible source of transformative and rejuvanitive energy.

Ivory towers.

Creativity and imagination: acts that come from these are a mini creation. Just as God created the universe form nothing, and just as it subsists in itself, so too do our stories come from the ether of our minds, and subsist within us. Quote from Tolkein about writing being an act of mini-creation.

Next week, I’ll talk about how I sifted through my freewrite, searched for a unifying theme and organized my thoughts in preparation for the first draft.

Subscribe to receive a free copy of my short story The Sign.