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Using Your Imagination

Updated on May 10, 2015

Have you ever really thought about what imagination is? Do you think you have ever actually experienced imagining something?

Imagination is the ability to form a world inside your mind’s eye and is much derived from our idea of fantasy, yet fantasy like mythology is nowadays considered entirely fake and made up. This makes sense on our day to day experience of things: It is not practical to spend your time daydreaming.

But when I imagine, even though I know the stories in my mind are not actually happening, I still feel them to be an experience. What's more I engage with the story emotionally and can sometimes even vividly remember things that I imagined in my head.

This to me makes it an incredibly potent skill, and it is evident in its most basic level listening to a storyteller. When a storyteller presents information in the form of words to someone, that person takes these words and forms them into a cinematic drama inside their own minds.

What’s more: two people hearing the same words will create an two profoundly different movie in their heads.

Why?

Well this is down to the process that happens when we imagine.


Do you think you have a good imagination?

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To describe this I am going to ask you to imagine a few things. Firstly visualize a clear and calm body of water: this is your mind. Now imagine a small rickety boat with a fisherman upon it. The fisherman is casting bait into the deep silent waters to lure out fish: this bait is information, or things which stimulate your imagination. Suddenly the deep lake comes alive and fish rush forward from the darkness to steal the bait: these hungry fish are your memories. Memories, like fish, come out of the shadows only when they are baited with the right information. The fisherman then draws the bait back and observes how the information has now been decorated with memories, how the bait now is kicking with life. How seemingly one dimensional information like words are now alive with detail.

Now to answer the question consider how someone on a separate exotic lake using the same bait may yield entirely different fish.

The stimulating information is often words, but it can be anything, including thoughts or even memories themselves. You will notice that the trait of a good imagination and memory lie in the attention to detail, this is because memory and imagination are intimately linked: like the fish and the bait. The imagination lures subconscious memories in order to flesh out its images. This is why it has such an incredible ability to cure people suffering from trauma. If you can ‘reimagine’ something difficult from a gentler or more honest perspective than you can often confront yourself or forgive yourself for the actions you took.

This brings me to the real superpower of the imagination. The ability to 'imagine' a new perspective is one of the most underdeveloped skills of our modern day. Individuality has us acting somewhat too self centred and unwilling to actually change our perspective to somebody else, even if that person is already within us (how would 'calm me' deal with this situation different than 'angry me')

This is why many of us bury ourselves in books, because we get outside of ourselves, and can imagine what it is like to be somebody else and to see another world, to experiment using different baits in our lake. This ability to change perspective develops within us a broader perception, we suddenly start buying that homeless guy a sandwich because we have imagined what his life might be through his eyes.

The developed imagination is crucial in enhancing one's perception. For example I look out of my window in Dublin and see the moon above me in the sky and the horizon beneath it, yet using the information provided to me by astrophysics I change my perspective. Now I see that the horizon is actually the peeling curve of a giant sphere, so me looking south at the horizon is actually me looking towards the equator and Africa and the moon is not above me the moon is across from me spinning silently through space. This use of the imagination to broader perception is where we get the phrase "blowing my mind".

Yet no amount of information would have got me there on its own. I needed to be able to bait the imagination with the information for my mind to bring it to life.

And now we get to the mother superior imagination technique. The art of bringing your catch back to shore.


Terence McKenna once said that reality is the dewdrops of the imagination. To me he is pointing out how the imagination is the place where we incubate ideas. He is describing how this world would remain forever the same without the imagination shuffling things up and recognizing our perceptions.

Just imagine how a car once did not exist anywhere. Yet one day someone fishing in their minds saw how four wheels, an engine and a frame may just work well together. This fisherman wrestled this strange new fish ashore and dragged it to his neighbour's lake and told him "if you use this bait, look at what you might catch".

One hundred years later an idea that did not even exist outside of someones mind had taken over the world. This act of retrieving ideas from the imagination is the true "craft" in art and is proof that any line of work can be an art so long as the fisherman is an expert imaginer.

A true artist is someone who makes themselves intimate with this process of ‘mining’ the imagination for gold, they spend their lifetimes honing the imagination skills. So I give kudos to the imagination, and encourage all to explore it's limitless possibilities, because accessing this latent forgotten skill may actually change your outlook, and in turn change your life.

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