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A Figment of my Imagination

October 31, 2010

The Sunday Salon.com

I read.

I read a lot.

Ok, I read entirely too much, according to the more sensible people I know.

“It’s fantastical escapism,” they cry.

Thankfully, much to the surprise of no one, I rely very little on such sensibilities.

I have always been a champion of imagination, creativity, well crafted escapism and just plain make believe fun. I am a proponent of invention over instruction, collaboration over compulsion and questioning over quantifying.

Why?

The biggest reason, for me, is that it (thinking outside of the box), is just plain good for your brain.

No, no, not in the way most [sensible] people think (“The brain needs a vacation from all of its hard work and learning!”) but in the exact opposite way. Yes, I’ll throw my teacher-directed, instruction based learning proponents a bone with the infamous bit about learning our history before we doom ourselves and repeat it. We do have to intake some knowledge so we don’t sit about reinventing things people have already discovered. (I’ll say, though, that the wheel has come a long way and it’s not due to sitting in class, prepping for a standardized test. Not totally, at least.)

However, as one of our many catalysts or harbingers or foresiblings in the child directed surge once said:

 

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.

That, there, was John Dewey. I’ve read the quote and others similar, countless times. It was not, though, until our recent trip to Epcot that I got it. Just past the entrance to the futuristic land of amazing stuff, there is a great circle of quotes leaning toward all things inventive and imaginary. The sound bytes turn the often frivolously viewed whims of children into the cold, hard reality of life saving, life altering advancements, made the world over.

I almost sent my travel partners to their day in the park, choosing to spend my six hours sitting in meditation on this incredible circle to the things I run my mouth about every day.

I had to leave, though. I had someone to see. Someone I hadn’t seen in 22 years.

Here he is.

This is my childhood friend, Figment.

 

I went to see him and he had enlightening things to present.

In the Imagination pavilion, Figment is the king of his castle. He bucks a serious scientist, intent on educating those on the ride about the five senses. Of course, being the patron saint of all things hands-on and child-directed, Figment derails the literal train of thought and heads for more inventive pastures.

I started to wonder, seconds into the imagination-based ride, whether going on this silly thing, when I was five, was the thing that started it all, eventually making me a foot soldier of Reggio-Inspired this and Project-based that. Or was it, instead, that I was always pre-wired for such a path and that’s the reason that the strongest memory I have from two decades ago were not, like other children, of Mikey and Donald or even Captain EO, but of Figment?

No matter, I suppose. I do know that regardless of the catalyst, I have always preferred experiments to wrote lessons and the reason I love a good book extends far beyond simple escapism. The mind interprets text in many different ways and, hand in hand, imagination and the written word can take a reader, big or small, anywhere possible.

Needless to say, there would be no fiction written, no movie produced, no Disney, no Universal no Sea World, not even the planes people take to get to these places if imagination were nonexistent.

Mechanics and theme parks aside, I still prefer books as my favorite form of imaginative expression. A book can do wonderful things.

In the spirit of experimentation, I will also say that a pair of dog bowls and a two year old can also do wonderful things when  mixed with a little (or a lot) of imagination….

Kai on a “skateboard”

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