Use Your Imagination

On Being a Modern Gentleman:

Guideline 9: Use Your Imagination

It seems to me most strange and sad that a small child might struggle to engage in imaginary or pretend play. As a kid, most of my time was spent battling my enemies (friends and sibling) as a barbarian, Jedi, cowboy, giant robot-pilot, or any other genre of hero. Many today, child and adult, bombarded with images, text, and various other stimuli, find themselves unable to imagine. And, thusly, their world is a dark and empty place.

Einstein, in an interview with The Saturday Evening Post in 1929, once said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” He would later add to this that imagination stimulates progress and gives birth to evolution, changing society, science, and art.

Room festooned with dinosaur stickers and superheroes (my pajamas were similarly decorated), imagination was my world. I visited places I may never see outside of a magazine or documentary. I explored vistas that will never exist again, for they resided in my own mind. I met heroes, villains, and exotic creatures. Imagination molded me into, well, me.

Pat Rothfuss, famed author of The Name of the Wind and its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, recently wrote of an incident during which his young boy attempted to explain the corrosion of a penny. His son had a few creative notions, and Pat did nothing to dispel them.

Because when a child comes to you in the full flush of discovery, brimming with excitement, correcting them is not the proper thing to do. Because the truth is, facts can be small, sad things. But learning to ask questions and guess at answers? That is the beginning of true understanding. Those are the bones of the world.

Imagination and discovery are indivisible and indistinguishable. One grows from the other. And, a modern gentlemen should cultivate both. Daydream. Wonder at things. Don’t turn to Google at the first hint of a question, consider. Ponder. A well-developed imagination will change and improve your perspective, your perceptions, and, current neuroscience and psychology posits, your memory. This month, go out and make something up. It’ll be good for you. Just, don’t tell your wife or husband I gave you permission to cover up any incidences with a good yarn. With great imagination comes great responsibility, got it?


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