Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

An Invitation to Imagination

Originally posted on September 11, 2013

We are working on a revision of our book, The Art of Play. Its thesis is that imagination is related to creativity, and this is related to envisioning, and there may be further potentials of all this not yet envisioned.

One aspect of this is realizing that we can say “yes-and” rather than “no but” or “either-or.” Mind can pretend, know that it’s pretending, and still enjoy. It doesn’t have to think of pretense as fully real, yet it is by no means fully “un-real” either, as in the dissolving fragments of a dream. Imagination, pretending, can be a vast resource. It happens naturally in the play of childhood and with just a little practice and reassurance that it can be done, adults can recapture this spirit.

Of course, many people do this in a slightly disguised way—playwrights, actors, directors, movie makers, cartoonists, novelists, all kinds of artists, and so forth—they balance what’s merely dry fact with the magic word “if.” They’re playing, but they don’t use that word.

There’s a category we can give to the imagined realm: “Almost-Real.” It’s a higher order of perception that we all know. For example, things are not inherently cute or wonderful but that our minds make it so. Extending that creative vision, we can infuse a degree of richness into our lives.

In the modern era, many who have fled the tyranny of superstition, the one-dimension of belief as it is so, versus that which is not so—i.e., either-or—have taken to a more abstract way to describe reality. They block out the natural human tendency to personify—that is, to imagine that what might well be impersonal is driven by human motivations.

The analytical psychologist James Hillman in his book .. noted the innate tendency of human thought to personify, to imagine that which is technically inanimate as if it were not only animate, but sort of person-like. At least it had a desire, an intention, and some degree of power. In the olden days and still today some people saw these dynamics as gods or the work of “little people,” elves, fairies, brownies, trolls, goblins, etc. Even airplane mechanics during the first two world wars talked about gremlins, and computer technicians talk about “glitches.”

What we can do today is dare to myth-make and also know explicitly that we are playing. We don’t have to fully believe literally in what we pretend, but neither do we have to forsake pretending. Indeed, in The World of Almost Real, creativity is generated through intentionally pretending!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *