Friday, June 26, 2009

The Death of Imagination

As a little kid, pretty much everyone is full of imagination. You spend your days drawing pictures of things you've never seen, pretending to travel to places you've never been, inventing histories that never happened, and acting like people you are not. Somehow, though, while we're being indoctrinated in schools, learning facts and figures (because grown-ups are so interested in figures), we neglect that part of our brains, and so, most adults possess a dormant imagination.

I am currently reading The Element, a book by Ken Robinson, and one that got me thinking about this imagination business. I suppose I have also been influenced by other recent readings: Andy and I have been reading childrens' books lately, including Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, the Little Prince (et Le Petit Prince), and Alice in Wonderland (as the previous post might suggest). It is a theme in every one of these, this desire to remain childlike and to live a life of imagination. In the Roald Dahl books in particular, the adults take on a villanous characteristic, always asserting that the children are stupid and somewhat worthless. All this because they live in their own worlds, make up their own rules, and create their own existence . . .

It's difficult to imagine anything anymore, even though I know that the number of experiences I have had is completely dwarfed in relation to those that could be imagined. It's difficult to draw on those resources and try to write a fictional story, even though I used to crank those out like nobody's business when I was in elementary school. I used to be able to draw things with some degree of success without looking at a picture to help me, and now my artistic talents have settled at "symbolic cartoon" level.

It seems, also, to be the common consensus that pretty much every idea has already been thought of. We're so used to it. TV series get to be so similar that you can lose track of which one you're watching. Movies now come from books, or as sequels (or prequels) to other movies. (It's becoming rarer and rarer to see a movie that came from nothing else before it.) Books come in series, so authors don't have to go to the trouble of inventing new characters each time they sit down to write. Even in music, we stifle creativity so that we can be "correct" or "tasteful."

I tried to draw a sketch today, just to see if I still had it in me. I drew my preliminary outline, and got mad at it because it didn't look right. Where has my imagination gone? Maybe that's why it's fled--imagining means taking risks, and taking risks means that from time to time, you will be wrong.

Creativity surprises me. To think, J.K. Rowling made up this whole bit about wizard schools and Quidditch (I hate Quidditch) and Muggles! How fascinating that Christopher Guest is Harlon Pepper, the Six-Fingered Man, Corky St. Clair, and one of the Folksmen! Yet, as children, it is our default mode to be inventing stories and characters. How sad that so many of us lose it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheshire Wisdom

"Cheshire Puss," she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. "Come, it's pleased so far," thought Alice, and she went on, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where-" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you walk," said the Cat.

"-so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.

There are those times in life when you can't see the end from the beginning. You find yourself standing at a fork in the road, and wonder which path to take. Sometimes, though, there are many paths to choose from, many of which lead to exactly the same place. With limited foresight, though, we don't always know which is the best, or which will most effectively take us to where we need to go.

Andy and I are both at forks in the road, and (while our destinations are becoming more and more clear each day) neither of us really knows where we want to end up. This has been a source of private shame for some time, because perhaps the most-asked question posed to persons in our stage of life is, "So, what's next?" Everyone expects you to have a well thought-out answer, to be able to say definitively what your next step will be, and what your ultimate goal is.

Why, though, should there be shame in admitting that I don't know where I want to end up? I don't think I'm alone in not knowing. People go back to school after years in one field to make a career change when they realize that they're not doing what's right for them. For all my life until this point, things have been laid out for me pretty well. I have progressed logically from one step until the next, and finally, have arrived at the point where there is no prescribed logical next step--at least not without an end goal in mind.

Having infinite possibilities before you is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. On one hand, you feel as though you can do anything at all, and that you are limited only by your imagination and determination. On the other hand, self-doubt enters, and all of it seems utterly impossible.

I still don't know the answer to the question, "So, what's next?" We're both trying to be careful, to look toward the end so that we know what way to take to get there. In the mean time, though, there are still bills to pay and Real Life to be reckoned with.

Thankfully, we are not on our own: our Father knows the end from the beginning, and knows what the best way is to get to the end that we want. He has blessed us so far, and will continue to do so, and will guide us as we seek His help. So, while life goes on (ob-lah-di, ob-lah-dah), we will continue to look for what's next, even though we're more interested in answering another question:

Where do we want to end up?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our new arrival

Life in an amazing thing. It surrounds us, and as a consequence, can be easily taken for granted. We had a new arrival not too long ago. So tiny, so fragile, yet full of potential limited one by one's capacity of imagination. What a blessing. I'm so excited for the others that will come with time. Hopefully they'll all be as juicy and utterly delicious...

If there's one thing I love, its a good tomato. This was the first of what's been about 15 or so edible cherry and grape tomatoes. about 7-10 others have fallen victim to a variety of peculiar-looking insects. We're trying the "no pesticide" method, our version anyway. Neither of us are what you might call seasoned gardeners, or gardeners at all for that matter. We're learning though, and for the moment, enjoying the fruits of our labors. No pun intended.

I'd like to keep this gardening thing up, not just because of the delectable culinary possibilities, but for the interaction with nature the likes of which I have never experienced. There's just something about knowing where your food comes from that is at ones reassuring and awe-inspiring and beautiful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Birthday Cream Pie

Yesterday was Andyface's birthday, and he took off work so we could play together. May I just say that one of my favorite things about Andyface is his ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I basically told him that he could do whatever he wanted to celebrate, and here is what we did:

-Watched the sunrise
-Ate a yummy breakfast (veggie omelet, biscuits, and smoothies)
-Went for a bike ride
-Baked some bread
-Had a picnic lunch (inaugural run of our picnic basket)
-Watched Ratatouille

What a lovely day! Even despite the increasing heat of the summer, it was a gorgeous day outside, and we were happy to spend so much time enjoying it. The only downside was that there were a few gaping holes in our day: as I'm leaving with Collegium for Boston later this afternoon, there were last-minute rehearsals and a send-off concert to be reckoned with, not to mention some of my final duties as TA to make sure all goes well. Nevertheless, we were able to get a lot into the hours that we had.

This is something I hope we can hold onto as life progresses. Right now, it's pretty easy to be satisfied with these simple pleasures, because it's pretty much all we have. Someday, though, it may be harder to resist the urge to "keep up with the Joneses," to fill our lives with things instead of with experiences. The latter are so much more meaningful--both in the moment and years later. (I never understand why people on Showcase Showdowns from the Price is Right pass up awesome trips to amazing places in hopes of winning a car or a boat or something. I would take the trip any day.) Experiences change us: we learn, we grow, we see the world differently. Things just accumulate until we forget that we have them anymore, and then end up selling them at a garage sale for a quarter.

Speaking of things, I'd better go toss a few of them into a suitcase before I have to leave. Packing is the bane of my existence.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

There is no "I" in "TEAM"

Have you ever tried to write anything without using the word "I" or "me"? They say it's bad practice to use those words very often, especially when writing formal pieces (articles, essays, resumes, etc.), but what about eliminating them from even informal writing, like the blog? Sometimes, it's good to take a challenge, if only just for fun. This particular challenge is much more difficult than it seems. After all, blogs are, by their very nature, self-centered. In fact, most all conversations are quite self-centered. One person rarely communicates with another without seeking to express his or her own opinions, or to have some other personal need met.

Interestingly, and however contrary to the truth, not including oneself in a blog seems incredibly limiting. There are infinite possibilities of things to blog about--things that are happening all around the world at this very moment--yet, the only lens through which a writer can see the world is that of his or her own eyes. Let this be a lesson: there is no such thing as an unbiased opinion.

This breeds questions of reality versus perception. The two are not necessarily the same, though they definitely influence one another, and cannot really be distinguished from one another (either by oneself or by anyone else)--perhaps indicated by America's fascination with "Reality" TV (which is anything but). It is all about perception.

Perhaps this is a different way of thinking. It's a more challenging way to think, because it is far easier to accept one's own perceptions as truth, as reality. But perhaps with expanding the idea of what is "real" comes a depth of experience previously unimagined. There is more "reality" around us than we believe!

It could be that our inability to see "things as they really are" is truly what separates us from God.