Thursday, May 7, 2009

Can you imagine?

Photo by Margaret Anne Clark

Do you have an imagination?

To digress, the sun finally came out this evening, so we went out for a run, then some tricyle-time for Graeme...after I put the boys down, I got to take a very leisurely shower (with no children awake, no rushing to get done before they wake up...) It was the most relaxing 20 minutes I've had for several days. Okay, maybe a few weeks.

During this time, I was contemplating the imagination, and realizing the importance of having a well-developed one. "Pretend" is not just for children. Consider these three complex qualities.

To care about another, to empathize, one has to be able to enter into another's sorrows. defines empathy as "a vicarious participation in the emotions, ideas, or opinions of others, the ability to imagine oneself in the condition or predicament of another".

When extending forgiveness, it can be really helpful to imagine the circumstances that caused the offender to hurt you. Not that it's a requirement to forgive - we must forgive regardless of whether we understand it or not. But, being able to put yourself in their shoes can surely help, granting you a measure of understanding, and consequently allowing forgiveness to happen more readily.

Or we might say "seeing the big picture". Life can be hard. People fail, circumstances turn upside-down, surprises (good or bad) knock us off our feet.

Being able to see beyond today, or beyond this week, or beyond this year, is a key component of hope.

And that requires imagination, doesn't it? Sometimes more than others! Many millionaires had very low periods in their life, when they had lost everything, and now they tell their story - and I've noticed that for many of them, they held on to a vision of a brighter future, even when they were living out of their car with no job and a family of four. Talk about imagination!

What about all the vocations that require imagination? Mothering, for example! :) Art, music, writing, designing, managing...these require the ability to actively see other worlds, and they require a "repertoire" of images and events that a curious mind creates.

Photo by Myk_Crypt

Imagination is not taught, it is innate. However, I believe it can be either encouraged or squelched. I'm thankful that I had parents that encouraged my imagination! (I'm sure they would attest it wasn't always easy! ;-)

The great thing about imagining is that it doesn't require materials, money, or planning. It's a fully-portable game that can be played anywhere, at any time. It engaged the brain and the senses. And it helps prepare our children to face adversity, to be curious, to love and forgive in a truly empathetic way.

So go pretend to be elephants or something with your little ones! Try telling stories. Ask them to imagine a place or a thing, and ask them what it feels like, what it tastes like, smells like, etc. Dress up. Have fun!


Melonie said...

Great post! My daughter has always had a very active imagination. During her preschool years she had a whole posse of imaginary friends hanging around. ;-)
A fun way to incorporate imaginative play and fitness is to do yoga or dance inspired by animals. There are several DVDs and books that give yoga poses animal names and attributes (and in some cases taking out the Eastern philosophies some parents might be concerned about depending on their beliefs). My daughter's ballet teacher in CA used to have an animal dance as a warm-up... the girls would plod along swinging their arms as trunks (warming up the shoulders and backs), they would blossom like flowers (stretching their legs, arms, and backs), and many other things - all in their imaginary world. :-)

Tammy said...

Beautifully expressed! When I read this, I thought about my father. A great writer, he also had that creative artist's imagination, which is a gift that lasts beyond a lifetime... to relive in a granddaughter he did not have an opportunity to meet. He would have enjoyed you so much!