Imagine: It’s easy if you try
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – March 25, 2018 – 12:00am
All of us have imagination but many lose it through the years. As a result, we look at the world and see no poetry or enchantment. But we can keep it alive by recognizing it and practicing it as often as we can.
I have always had a sense of wonder ever since I was a kid. I could look at a wooden table and get very curious about the varied hues of brown on it. I would find pictures on the table that came from the wood grain or the way it was cut. I would see all sorts of things and make scenarios and stories about them.
I would also push it and imagine where the tree came from, what kind of tree it was, or who may have cut it. I would try to learn how this particular table ended up being a part of our family’s worldly possessions. My curiosity was endless.
I also liked gazing at the night sky. I love doing it to this day. Decades ago, Manila’s night sky was still awesome. You could still see a sky filled with stars. There was no pollution to cover or lessen the beauty of the heavenly bodies. There were stars that were big, and there were some that were small. Some twinkled beautifully. Some stood still. Some looked near and some appeared to be very far. There were clusters of stars that were aligned or arranged in certain patterns. I would try to make some order out of those who were in some strange patterns. It was like connecting dots. Stargazing always left me marveling at how awesome the universe was.
The beauty of words also fascinates me. As a kid growing up at the Ateneo, we were made to memorize poems and then recite them in class. I loved Edgar Allen Poe’s poems, especially “The Raven” and “The Bells.” “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred Lord Tennison was a poem I learned in grade 6 that has stayed with me since. I often catch myself reciting it at dusk or when I am near the ocean.
I remember reading Edward Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Corey” for the first time. As much as I loved it, I also found it quite shocking. I memorized it for both reasons. Decades later, I remember driving with my kids. I started reciting Richard Cory to them. It was late evening. From the rear view, I could see most of them already fast asleep. Or so I thought. When I got to the last line they all screamed a loud “Huh?” Everyone was suddenly wide awake. If you do not know the poem, look it up. I do not want to deprive you of the shock at the end of the poem.
If you’ve ever wondered or continue to be fascinated with beaches, sand, water, the stars and planets, or just about anything in nature, it is because there is something organic inside of us that awakens at nature’s presence. We were born to engage in mystery.
All of us have it but many lose it through the years. And most people lose a lot of it.
As a result, they look at the world and their lives and see no poetry or enchantment. They are stuck in the routine of living daily, trapped in the literal world of work, struggle, boredom. In short, they live a life lacking in joy and meaning. Almost everything is dreary and boring. They have stopped asking questions long ago, and have accepted life as such — without poetry and wonderment.
As adults, whatever is left of that organic curiosity, we must keep alive. And we can do so by recognizing it, and practicing it as often as we can.
Time was when our toys were abstract things. It could be a can of sardines with some homemade wheels put on its side, a sled made out of cartons, or random pieces of anything that we imagined or shaped into something. These were products of our awakened creativity. These days, I observe that kids are given toys that are too realistic, thus depriving them of imagination. Instead of becoming creators of their own toys, they become consumers of toys made by others for profit.
Sometimes, I feel that so much of the loneliness and alienation people suffer in the world is because what used to give them joy has now become the very source of their anxiety. Where they used to express freely as children, they now contain or hold back for fear of being wrong, laughed at or compared to others. Where we used to make sense of the world by making ‘conspiracy theories’ as we saw them, now we want others to connect them for us. We do not want to be answerable for our thoughts and actions. We want other people to figure things out for us.
What would life be without imagination, or without the pursuit of what makes us curious about everything? Where would our joy, meaning, passion and purpose come from?
We would all end up living dull lives.
We do not need more products, or services that will only whet our insatiable appetite to want and crave for even more stuff. What we need is to be happier, more connected with each other.
Einstein, for all of his dedication to something so measured and precise such as science, actually praised imagination more and even suggested that it is greater than knowledge. “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination,” he said.
Imagination creates new possibilities and connections. It can bring joy and open us to see the poetry that already presents itself daily in our lives. That creates more wonder, passion, joy and enchantment.
That is how we should live.