By Michael Strelcheck
Have you ever wasted time day-dreaming? I know I made an art of it when I was in high school. Every time the teacher would catch me drifting off into never-never land, they would pull me back into the mundane world of reading, writing and regurgitating. The practical knowledge of public education seemed way boring next to what I could do or experience in my imagination.
Fortunately those days are changing. Chalk it up to “Harry Potterism” or maybe video games, but imagination has been discovered by the “real” world. Although you won’t see the term imagination used today, having been replaced by more trendy terms like “creative-thought” or “innovative thinking.” Modern organizations and businesses are now looking for those who can think out-of-the-box, who can envision the future before it happens. Corporations like Apple are making their fortunes on innovative products, and some others like Tesla have become rich on innovate ideas – many of which have yet to come to market! Yes, it seems that “dreamers” are taking over the future.
Although some still regard the imagination as a vice, a means of escapism, a window into fantasy and make-believe, its true function is just the opposite of this. The imagination is an “image-making facility” and it works with thought to bring new things to life. In the worlds of art, culture and science the imagination can provide a visionary perception which, when merged with the human intellect, can create wondrous forms that enrich the human experience.
But due to the common association of the imagination with a dreamlike state, the idea that it’s now shaping the future may initially be a disturbing one. Metaphysical Theory describes the human mind’s ability to imagine as a “supernatural” quality – for it has the power to perceive – what has yet to be! Maybe that’s why new ideas or concepts can be scary, for they are things that are unknown or that have yet to be tried and tested. But it’s clear today that the impact of imagination, with its quality and dynamism, is rapidly expanding our sense of reality. Perhaps that’s why the world is feeling a little nervous these days?
Albert Einstein epitomized the idea of using imagination to expand insight. He said that he realized his “groundbreaking theories” by performing what he called – thought experiments. In these contemplative moments he would turn his attention inward and creatively try to visualize the universe in a new way, sometimes imaginatively picturing himself riding on a comet as it flew through space. The new and unique perspectives he experienced helped him realize previously unimagined qualities of the physical universe.
Although Einstein was clearly a unique thinker, each of us has the same abilities that he had. In other words, we too have a practical intelligence as well creative imagination and when we get these two parts of our mind working together – something magical happens.
Imagine for a second what you could do with the powerful insight of an Einstein. You could conduct your own “thought experiments” wherein you realize new and better ways to do things, or become aware of potentials around you that you hadn’t noticed. You could innovate your life! Hard to believe? Maybe it’s easier than you think.
Take for example the TV show Star Trek from the 1960’s and its portrayal of futuristic life. Just about everyone remembers the iconic “flip-open hand communicator” featured by the space-age characters. This thing was imagined (or created) by some geeky stagehand for the show because there was no such device at that time, and it was an immediate hit with the viewers. Lo and behold, not many years after, the device was engineered by the show that we find the “flip-open cellphone” appearing in daily life! What if that prop-guy never imagined the device? Would the flip-phone never have happened? One thing we can safely assume is that prop-guy never thought he would be immortalized by his new variation of a walky-talky! Interestingly, the show also had many other space-age devices that didn’t exist at the time; like the computer tablet, a handheld medical diagnostic device, and a ridiculous talking computer (with a female voice) that could answer a person’s questions. Such folly! But wait a second. They sound strangely familiar. Let me ask Siri? These fantastical devices (then) became practical things that we take for granted today because someone took the time to imagine them! Could you do the same for your own life or even for your community?
Let’s get back to your creative potential and consider how you can put your imagination to good use. Let’s say you’d like to get a better understanding of relationships. With the willingness to think deeply and creatively on the nature of your relationships, your family, friends, and even your community, you could gain new insight into what motivates them. All it takes is a moment of contemplation wherein you imagine trying something different – “What if I did this?” – and then imagine what might happen. In such a way the imagination can be gainfully employed as a tool for experimentation and through the “magic of wondering” the deeper connections at the heart of your relationships can be discovered.
For example, what if you have always wanted to tell someone how much you cared about them, but were too unsure of how that would go down? By using the power of your imagination you can explore what would happen without actually taking the risk. You can visualize in your mind doing it and then imagine the various reactions that might happen. As you go through the possibilities you will find that you begin to feel more comfortable with that expression, and maybe even realize that it’s worth doing. At the very least you would be prepared for whatever reaction you might get – and in this way – you come to know the probable future! But the magic happens when you bring what you have learned by your ‘imagineering’ to your outer life, and manifest that which you desire!
Most importantly, give yourself time to dream, for dreams are what future stuff is made of. Remember, if you can imagine what it is that you desire, how can you know what it is that you want?