Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I've never been shy about using my imagination. I love giving it a workout as much as I love feeling my quads burn after a nice long cardio session on the stairmaster. I love imagining what the characaters in the tales I tell look like, sound like, move like. I walk down the street dreaming up ways to entertain the kids in the hospital, special gifts for my husband and friends, ways to indulge in the travel that I so love, on a performer/yoga teacher salary. What I come up with may not always be the best, but I have no problem going back to the drawing board of my mind, time and time again, and creating something new, something different, something unique. My brain does not like sameness, or repeating, so sometimes, even when I want to "rest" my grey matter, I simply cannot shut off (even with a lot of yoga!) the little voice that says "What if you???" And so, I've always been a little sad when I've heard people say, "I don't have an imagination." Oh course, it's not true, we all have them - but like a muscle we never use, this fabulous thing called our imaginations can get flabby and weak, if we don't use it. We stop letting our minds soar, and so they become grounded - and not in a good way, but in a stuck way, in a "if it's not in front of my face, it can't possibly be" way. It used to be that this type of they call "in the box" thinking was the domain of adults alone, but lately, I have begun to see more and more children, even as young as seven or eight, leave the land of make believe behind for the land of literal and linear, and I'll say it - drab!! In folktales all sorts of fantastical things occur - animals talk, the sun and moon live as brothers on earth, and in the sky at the same time, young men turn into bears - it breaks my heart, when I hear a kid say, "Yeah, but that can't really happen!" or "That never happened!" Says who????? Who's to say what happened in that time of long, long ago? We know there were dinosaurs - how unbelievable in a way are they - creatures like giants, with huge claws and teeth - are some of the things in stories anymore believable that that? I sit here typing on a tiny keyboard, that will somehow connect me to people around the world - how believable would that have been to my ancestors? Of the fact that I can speak to my friends in Argentina - not just hear their voices, but see their faces as well, or that a big metal bird can fly through the sky with hundreds of people in it? All of the things that we use without thought today, were once, just figments of the imagination. They were all the unlikely dreams of someone at sometime who were not afraid to use the inquisitiveness we are all born with. And that, is the power of the imagination. Yes, it's nice I can use that part of my brain to bring a character to life, but an even more important use of my brain was the way I thought of being a storyteller in the first place. The day I dared to say, "What that lady - Carmen Deedy - is doing on that stage - I can do that!" And once I conjured it to my brain, I began the process of making it come to be, just as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and all those guys, first saw our technology in their heads, and they worked to bring it to fruition. As I stood in front of a college class recently, and talked about why stories are so important, the importance of imagination in building ones life came to me in a flash. I said to them that until we can imagine something more than we see, how can we ever hope to have more than what we see, more than just the status quo, more than what we have been born into and see around us? Yes, work will be involved - hard work, and maybe failure, too, but before we can know any of that, we first must see it in our heads. We must have the blue print, the road map, that our imaginations can give us. And that is why, I love folktales and fairytales, because it says to our imaginations, "Yo, get off the couch and start working out!!" It's like the exercise that you do that doesn't feel like exercise, it just feels like you are doing something engaging and fun, that, oh, yeah, just happens to be good for you. Having an imagination isn't just for kids, and certainly isn't babyish or childish, it is essential. It's like the ABCs of building a life, without it you can't even begin to bring into existence all that might be within you, and that would be a waste, and a shame.