The Power and Beauty of Imagination
“Why you going, going, going?” my little three-year-old cousin asks me with innocent bewilderment. He is only just starting to catch on to English and has lived with us for long enough now to know that I am never around for long.
As he speaks these words, I feel a profound curiosity myself at my constant desire to be “on the move” (and Thom Gunn’s poem is perhaps the most apt analysis of this). I have just had a Skype call with a friend in Germany, and last night I watched a documentary spanning Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. Why do I feel such an immense pull to these places?
One is always nearer by not keeping still. Thom Gunn, "On the Move” (1957)
I expose myself to a myriad foreign and exotic influences – be it through learning languages, reading, watching foreign films or simply meeting people from all walks of life. I am restless by nature. I cannot be content with a life of normality. I am ever stretching further, searching, chasing threads of possibility that seem to blow in the air, always hoping that they will lead me to a contented certainty about my surroundings.
"In the war against reality, imagination is your only weapon." Jules de Gaultier
As a child I had a pretty healthy imagination. I often dreamed of faraway lands or fantastical worlds intertwined with our mundane reality. I frequented the Magic Faraway tree; I was a witch stuck in a muggle world, and I was so enthralled with my beautifully illustrated “Girls’ Book of Flower Fairies” that I convinced myself there were fairies living at the bottom of our garden. To this day I still get a tingle of “what if” every time I stare long enough at a patch of verdant bush…
But I grew up and so did my tastes in fantasy. At night I would dream I was an international spy; I would play out stories in my mind of perfect romances with handsome Spanish football players; I was the secretly power-wielding wife of a tall, dark Russian mafia boss. After watching the movie Prince of Persia, I was a Persian princess leading her nation on a great trek across the desert sands. I once had a dream that centaurs came to take me home and for months afterward I had a real longing to find this mystical place that felt so vivid in my dreams.
For as long as I can remember, my mind has grasped at anything remotely different and exciting and has spun a new reality in which I can lose myself. I have grown up with simply no notion of any obligation to exist and make do with the world around me. These “other worlds” have formed such a large part of my daily thought that they have become no longer just fantasies, but extensions of my reality; expressions of my identity. When I think back to my childhood, these dreams are what come to mind.
Now in my late teens, I wonder if I will ever step out of that dream world. As I’ve grown older, I have seen how this mindset has manifested in very real experiences and aspirations. In the past two years alone, I have travelled to over seven countries, missing vast amounts of school and relishing the thrill of my fast-paced, rather glamorous life. And these things have not just happened by chance, either. I have become so accustomed to this life of blissful change, that I have consciously learned to produce the outcomes I so long for. I am a pragmatic, resourceful and tactful opportunist. Basically, I know how to get what I want. Always. I have found ways to live out the fantasies of which I once only dreamed.
Imagination is more powerful than knowledge
So what is the lesson learned? Imagination is a powerful thing – more powerful than most of us can conceive. As we grow up, the child-like imagination of unicorns and princesses becomes the creative force which transforms our dreams into realities. It takes imagination to set goals. It takes imagination to envision and embody the self you want to become. But most of all, it takes imagination to reach the seemingly impossible.
Perhaps I’m going off on a tangent of New Age philosophy, but combined with my upbringing, the general attitude of my family, and my own spiritual beliefs, I really do believe one can will things to happen. It’s worked far too many times for me not to hold it as a belief. My imagination is what keeps me sane. It is the basis for my conviction that life will be good.
It was my imagination that spurred me on to learn Russian when I should have been studying for my final physics exam. It was my imagination one September evening in 2015 that suggested it would be pretty cool to make the national debating team – and my imagination that reminded me every night for the next five months that the spot was already mine. And it is now my imagination that is telling me to give up the opportunities here and be a part of what can best be described as a social experiment in tertiary education that will take me halfway across the world, in the hope and conviction that things will turn out well.
I would like to think that what feeds my imagination is more than just my own shallow thoughts. Of one thing I am sure: imagination is infinite, generative and beautiful, and I intend to cherish it my whole life long.