Imagination Ruminations

Toward an Imagination Nation
Posted on July 17, 2011

Before something is created, before anything is realized, it must be imagined. Imagination is where the act of creation takes place. After that it’s handling the details.

The “Aha!” moment is magical, but it doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. It happens within a story. It happens in language. It happens (and is constrained by) what we know, what we believe, what we interpret, what we feel, what we want, what we need, what we know, and maybe most importantly what we allow to be possible. Think about it. Any skilled craftsman in Ancient Egypt or Greece could have built a phonograph or an airplane. It was not a matter of skill but of imagination. It didn’t exist in the stories they believed and lived in and so it never occurred to them to put things together in such a way as to build these things.

New ideas always start out as a story to be told and need to be nurtured to grow. Being able to express that story is the first step. There are many ways that can happen and every time and way it is expressed it changes a little opening ever new possibilities to explore. Each time it is told and each person it is shared with adds something and at some point it grows from possibility to probability and the story shifts from “Can it be?” to “How do we?” It has grown into a project.

It is in the Project phase that the story takes on a physical reality. Like the crab that builds its house on its back, we start attaching bits and pieces of things that we have and know how to do to the story until it reaches a point that anyone can see it and say “Yes, that’s what that is!”

There are many tools and techniques that can be used every step of the way. After all, people have been doing this for many thousands of years and some have taken the time and effort to look at how and why and what goes on and imagined and created many tools to help. I hope that in this enterprise we can bring these to bear on those things that will make a difference for all of us, as in the dialog between David Bowman and HAL9000 near the end of 2010:

“HAL9000: What is going to happen?
Dave: Something wonderful.”


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