Tuesday, January 05, 2010
I just read Stephen King’s introduction to Nightmares & Dreamscapes and he had something to say about imagination that really resonated with me. He was talking about his childhood, and here are his words:
“I knew even then, you see, that there were people in the world—-too many of them actually—-whose imaginative senses were either numb or completely deadened, and who lived in a mental state akin to color-blindness. I always felt sorry for them, never dreaming (at last then) that many of these unimaginative types either pitied me or held me in contempt…”
I wasn’t quite as observant as King when I was a kid. It never occurred to me then that anyone could lack imagination. My own imagination kept me company 24 hours a day. Every moment was magic. The sky filled itself with battleships and pirate galleons; the woods were populated with living shadows, both human and inhuman. Even at night my imagination never slept. There were nightmares sometimes, but always my dreams were vivid, intense, otherworldly. I couldn’t understand why others laughed at such “fancies.” Didn’t they have the same experiences?
What I did know, though, was that I was laughed at, pitied, and held in contempt by many when I shared the thoughts and ideas that excited me. I was told many times that I read too much, that I needed to get my head out of the clouds, that I needed to pay attention to the ground instead of the sky, that I was wasting my life away daydreaming. When I was little, it hurt. I began to develop an inferiority complex. When everyone is telling you that you’re going about life all wrong, you often begin to believe them. Fortunately, I realized in time that they were the ones who were doing it all wrong.
I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I’d given in to the criticisms. I may not be a great success by any stretch of the ‘imagination,’ but I never have to suffer from boredom. And I often think that I’ve actually lived many lives instead of just the one. I’ve lived in the Old West, lived on other planets. I’ve known heroes and villains, monstrous aliens and gentle ones. I’ve explored across time. All of that inside a couple of pounds of spongy pinkish matter.
When Josh was little I actively tried to cultivate his imagination. Yes, it meant he had a few bad dreams. But I hope he’ll realize over time what a true gift a good imagination is. I think he does. Whenever a child's imagination is stifled, the human race comes a little closer to extinction.
Now I think I’m going to go daydream. The sky is blue, the woods are dark. And there are worlds within worlds.
Art copywrite (c) The incomparable Lana Gramlich, whose imagination I greatly admire.