Sunday, June 3, 2012

Can We Really Imagine?

In our back yard sits a simple but sturdy wooden swing set. My father built it for us kids when we were little. Two swings, a pull-up bar (for him and the boys), and a shooting stand (also for him and the boys). My sister and I used to spend every day of our summers out on those swings, pretending that we were on a great ship at sea, thrashing about and attempting to switch places with one another without touching the ground and in the torrent of two wildly ferocious swings...

The set is old now. It's sunk some into the ground, the wood splinters easily, and the chains supporting the swings have thoroughly rusted over. But I, being the last one at home, still love that swing set and frequently sit out there for hours. Of course, we've raised the seats to accommodate my height. It faces the field behind our house and the woods just beyond the field, creating a very serene atmosphere in the early morning and in the evening. There is a maple tree growing to the left of the set that has been there since I was born, and has grown well above the height of our house. It's a wonderful place to sit and think.

And that's just what I was doing today.

As I sat in the evening rays of the sun, I began to think about creation. Not just the creation of our world and universe, but how a person creates. What do they use to conjure a "created" image or a "created" idea. Any new creation is deemed the result of imagination. But how do we imagine? Where is our imagination coming from? While I've learned not to trust binaries, I did come up with one: either we have the power to create new and original things not seen on this earth, or we have absolutely no power to create anything whatsoever.

Seems drastic.

But think about it for a moment...when a child draws some terrifying monster to scare away a girl in his second grade class, what does he "create"? A big dragon with five heads and wings that leave a trail of purple fire wherever he flies. He might even have scary orange stripes and a single horn on his head that he uses to spear little second grade girls, as the boy might tell his classmate.

In itself, that picture might seem like a creation indeed. There are, of course, no flying five-headed dragons in the area. But if you deconstruct the creature, you find ordinary body parts- a head, like humans have; wings, like a bird has; fire, like excited cave men have; stripes, like a zebra has. The only thing the boy's mind did was combine things that already existed in his mind due to some experience and then twisted it around some. So I present the question: can we really create anything at all? Or is everything the recycled twist of what we've seen with our own eyes?

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