“Even so, I must admire your skill.
You are so gracefully insane.”
- Could Using Our Imagination Involve A Little Madness?
We all tend come up with ideas that we discount as ‘mad.’ Sometimes, however, these so-called mad thoughts can lead to real creative projects.
History shows us that what may have started out as a ‘crazy’ concept ended up being productive.
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
“The man who cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.”
The writer Jules Verne, for example, was not affected by the lack of contemporary reality or practicality of his ‘mad’ ideas. Thus, he imagined underwater travel and trips to the moon, which must have seemed like madness at the time.
Verne describes how he allowed his imagination to run riot, to be free and wild, and, as a result, he was able to produce some fantastical novels such as From the Earth to the Moon (1872) and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1870):
“So strange is imagination, all I thought of was some childish hypothesis or other. In such circumstances, you do not choose your own thoughts. They overcome you.”
‘Mad’ Ways of Thinking in this context refer to moments when we can lift the societal and cultural constraints on our patterns of thought and allow ourselves to have some uninhibited thought-freedom.
Thought-freedom involves us ignoring practicalities and fears of being stupid or worries about the disapproval of others.
“Am I crazy?” she asked. “I feel like I am sometimes.”
“Maybe,” he said, rubbing her forehead. “But don’t worry about it. You need to be a little bit crazy. Crazy is the price you pay for having an imagination. It’s your superpower. Tapping into the dream. It’s a good thing not a bad thing.”
Salvador Dali with his pet ocelot, Babou, and cane. Wikimedia Commons.
Where does clear, ‘sane’ thinking come into this?
The French writer Andre Gide knew well that madness, as well as sanity, is a part of the creative process.
His quote, below, perfectly encapsulates the combination of mad and clear thinking that is necessary for creativity:
“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. Essential to remain between the two, close to madness when you dream and close to reason when you write.”
- Imagination and Childhood.
Arthur Wardle. A Fairy Tale. Wikimedia Commons.
Children have vivid imaginations; the world for them is a place to wonder about. Their imaginative play develops and enhances creativity, problem-solving, confidence and decision-making.
Alan Lowndes – Amanda and Martin. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Remember when you were little and your imagination ran free. The dragon under the stairs and the boiling lava between the sofas. At night, you were an astronaut jumping on your bed under glow-in-the-dark stars. By day, you were climbing mountains, running through jungles, and racing cars. Now you are a little older and you wonder if the imagination will disappear. But hold on to your dreams. Without imagination, the excitement of possibility is lost. There is so much wonder in dreaming. Hold on to your imagination.”
It is a pity that we often tend to lose this childhood imaginative facility, but living ‘tames’ our imaginations and persuades us to think along prescribed societal tramlines:
“They spent the first three years of school getting you to pretend stuff and then the rest of it marking you down if you did the same thing.”
Often, imaginative games mimic adult behaviour; Vygotsky emphasises the fact that children combine aspects of others’ behaviour with their own imaginative ideas:
“………. imagination always builds using materials supplied by reality.
…..the combination of these elements is something new, creative, something that belongs to the child himself, and does not simply reproduce what the child happened to observe or see. It is this ability to combine elements to produce a structure, to combine the old in new ways that is the basis of creativity.”
- 🧚♂️ Fairy Tales And Imagination 🧚♀️
Stories and fairy-tales help children to think imaginatively, to push out the boundaries of their thinking into fantasy and make-believe.
Through fairy-tales, children can learn about life, process traumatic events, develop a conscience, learn morality.
Fairy tales help to develop the power of logical, creative thinking:
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
“Fairy tales had been her first experience of the magical universe, and more than once she had wondered why people ended up distancing themselves from that world, knowing the immense joy that childhood had brought to their lives.”
“It is frightfully difficult to know much about the fairies, and almost the only thing for certain is that there are fairies wherever there are children.”
John Atkinson Grimshaw – Spirit of Night  Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Children see magic because they look for it.”
- Imagination and Trusting Yourself
“Trust that little voice in your head that says, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’; and then do it.” Duane Michals
Allowing the imagination to wander freely involves a degree of self confidence and trust. Following one’s hunches and apparently illogical or absurd thoughts to produce something creative does mean that we will have to take a leap of faith into our inner landscape.
We need to keep pursuing our amazing thought-trains as they burst into our consciousness!
Train Book Sculpture. Becky Delaware. Flickr.
If we are able to do this, we will, indeed, find that we can develop wings of imagination, which will carry us through the billowing clouds of the unconscious to levels of creativity and productivity we could only ever have dreamed of.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
- Imagination and Reading
“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.”
Books can take us anywhere. Reading opens our minds and we will discover a whole new world of experiences and ideas. We can be transported through time and place. Reading can temporarily remove us from a harsh reality and allow us to relax, imagine, learn and process our own thoughts.
Books are also a more creative alternative to staring at our mobile phones, surfing the internet, or watching Netflix. These are largely passive, imaginatively unstimulating pastimes.
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
- Imagination And Love
Chagall. The Birthday. Wikimedia Commons.
“If we are to love our neighbours, before doing anything else we must see our neighbours. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
Seeing another person ‘with our imaginations well as our eyes,’ is a gift. It means that we are prepared to make an effort to really know them, to look beyond the surface and really feel who they are at a deep level. Like artists do.
Self- portrait by Lucian Freud. Flickr.
Freud is revealing a great deal about himself here, and his portraits of other people show a similarly in-depth approach to the face and body. He really studied people and used his feelings and imagination about what lay beneath the surface.
This deep looking at another person, to discover their essence, is a kind of love, as Buechner says. His views tally with those of Graham Greene when he stated that “Hate is a lack of imagination.”
Love And Imagination
“Love and imagination are magicians
Who create an image of the Beloved in your mind
With which you share your secret intimate moments.
This apparition is made of nothing at all,
But from its mouth comes the question,
‘Am I not your Loved One?’
and from you the soft reply ‘Yes.Yes.Yes.’ “
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi