Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Is Imagination the central pivot of human life?

I’m realizing that we take the imagination for granted. It isn’t enough to have imagination, but it needs to be recognized, educated, refined, and developed, just like any faculty.  I could have a bent for playing the piano or singing, but nothing much will come of it without practice, lessons, and traversing the various levels involved in becoming a skilled musician. These musings have led to today’s blog post on this subject.

Ann Ulanov, a Jungian analyst, has written about the imagination. She believes it acts as bridge between personal and collective life, between consciousness and the collective unconscious. And, of course, imagination belongs to all of us.

Novelist Annie Proulx has also written about the imagination and commented on it in an Atlantic Unbound interview on November 12, 1997, from which I quote. The questioner points out that “Imagination plays an ambivalent role in the lives of your characters. For many of the poverty-struck, imagination is what allows them to get by, get through, even get out. Yet rarely do these characters meet with any kind of success. Is imagination only good, then, for transition rather than transformation?”

Proulx responds, “I did a little essay for the Hungry Mind Review a couple of years ago on imagination, and I still feel the same way I did then: imagination is the human mind’s central life strategy. It is how we anticipate danger, pleasure, threat. The imagination is how our expectations are raised and formulated; it excites and ennobles our purpose in life. The imagination blocks out hunger, bodily harm, bad luck, injury, loneliness, insult, the condition of the marooned person or the orphan, grief and disappointment, restlessness, desperation, imprisonment, and approaching death. And from the imagination spring the ideas, the actions, and the beliefs that we hold.”

“For many people — for me, certainly — the life of the mind, the realm of the imagination, is a more brilliant and compelling one than the world we live in. So this question — ‘Is imagination only good, then, for transition rather than Transformation’ — doesn’t even begin to get in on the same train with what I feel imagination does. It is everything.

Imagination is the central pivot of human life. It’s complex!”

Woody Allen also weighed in on the imagination in a New Yorker article (Dec. 9, 1996).  It fulfills his need to create a magical world, a place to escape from the brutality of reality. He thinks humans need these escapes, that reality is too much for us otherwise. Certainly, that seems to be true during this pandemic days and during other times of personal desperation.

So I would like to recommend that Biden create assign a month when we celebrate the imagination, that incredible faculty that helps us to navigate our lives.

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