Monday, August 27, 2007

"Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge"

The above quote is from Albert Einstein, who, one would think, would consider knowledge much more important than imagination. But I am in total agreement with him. Imagination is much more important. Just think about all the great inventors who had very little education.

Several years ago, I designed an online story for my kindergarten students to teach them about library manners. I took stuffed monkeys and arranged them in a variety of situations, such as surrounding them with books they had pulled from a shelf, and took pictures of them. (And didn't I have fun doing that!) Then, I added narration and showed it to each class, talking about the bad monkeys and how they had to learn manners. From the first time I showed it and talked about it to the kids right up to today, I get the same response. Some immediately want to know if the monkeys are real. Were they REALLY bad when I left at night? Did they REALLY mess up the library? And there's almost always one or two who look at them with exasperation and say "Of course they are real. DIDN'T YOU WATCH THE STORY?" They watched the story. They processed the story. They believed the story.

The difference between those students who questioned and those who believed is that some of them have imagination. Here's the formula I invented and am proud to share with you right now. Any money generated by sharing this formula, of course, is entirely mine. A money order is fine.

Good Writing + Imagination = Belief

I have a good imagination. This can be both a blessing and a curse. When I see a traffic accident or read about a tragedy, my imagination often goes into overdrive. I fall into a mini-daydream of what if. What if that happened to this family member? And then this happened. And then that happened. And then this completely horrible thing happened. It is so real in my mind that I can literally make myself sick with remorse and sorrow. And then I snap out of it. That's the curse.
But it's a blessing when it comes to creative design - like the story I wrote for the kids. Or when I am reading or watching TV or a movie. With good writing and my imagination, I can completely fall into a story and become so enmeshed in these people's lives that I worry about them when I am not watching or viewing.
One example is when Tom and I became seriously obsessed, as I have mentioned before, with watching the DVD releases of the Buffy and Angel series. Although the shows are about supernatural beings and occurrences, the primary story line is about the doomed love affair between the petite, blonde vampire slayer and the hunky vampire. I can't express to you how anguished I was while watching this show. I was so completely involved in their lives and the lives of their heroic friends that they were constantly in my thoughts. Even though, in reality, I knew they could never be together, my imagination was constantly conjuring up stories about how it could work out. We have finished watching the shows and they both came to satisfactory endings. As satisfactory as they could be, anyway. And I still worry about them and think about ways that, maybe, just possibly, they could work it out and be together. See.

Good Writing + Imagination = Belief
The same thing happened as we watched the previous episodes of
Smallville. The difference with this show is that, since we know the superman mythos and what will happen in the future, everything in this show is technically a flashback. So, even though we both know the intense love Clark and Lana feel for each other is doomed, we still want it to work out. Our imaginations work overtime trying to make this happen. One of the main characters was killed the other night and Tom and I were upset for days. We still talk about it. The sadness. How it will affect all their lives. These are IMAGINARY people, y'all. Yet, we are seriously concerned.
Books are even better than any of the visual media in this regard because your imagination can not only envision what might happen with the characters, it can paint a whole visual landscape of where they are and what is happening, what they might look like, wear, how they would think. One of the books I can remember this happening with most clearly is Outlander. If you haven't read this, you should immediately click on Amazon and order it. It's a time travel romance story, a genre that probably began with the excellent story A Knight in Shining Armor and has since degenerated somewhat with a plethora of silly books about heavily muscled Vikings appearing from the past in women's bedrooms. In Outlander, Claire travels to ancient Scotland through the mysterious standing stones in England. Although it's a rather thick book, it is easy to read because of the excellent writing and because you become so involved in Claire and Jamie's story that your imagination brings them to life just as if you knew them personally. When Claire, inevitably, must return home, my heart just ached and I worried about them for ages. Until the next book in the series came out. Always a satisfying situation.
I get discouraged occasionally about how few of my students show real imagination. I honestly don't know if this is a result of reading less, watching too much mind-numbing television and movies and playing video games which require just a flick of the thumb for action to occur, or if there have always been just a few students in every group who have an active imagination. I don't know. And I don't know how many adults have an active imagination like mine. Sometimes, it can be a curse. I'd like to rein it in when it upsets me with visions of what could be. But most of the time it's a blessing.
When it, again, shows me what could be.
What, with a little imagination and some good storytelling, it could be. Should be. Satisfyingly, heart-warmingly, happily, should be.


sarah said...

(Of course) I am just like you in this. I will create huge stories in my mind about any book or movie that I have finished...just so I know who it ends...or how it continues. I will stay awake for hours in bed at night...just thinking. I cannot imagine reading without doing this durring, and then at the end of every book. I have never read Outlander, but oh how I loved Knight in Shining Armor!

Lucy's Mom said...

I think Diana Gabaldon and the Outlander series are some of the best reading I have ever done. I LOVE Jamie and Claire and they are as real to me as you are. I find myself walking down the street and if I see a big, red headed man I immediately think of Jamie. These people are so REAL that when I'm reading about them, I am THERE. As I left the field at Culloden, I expected to be bloody and disheveled. When I "came to" and found myself in my easy chair in this century, I was surprised. I get so enmeshed it's indescribable to someone who doesn't read. I really understand and am so thankful for my vivid imagination. I think it makes life richer. Check out Gabaldon's website. There is an excerpt from the next Claire and Jamie book.

hamiam said...

ITA....wholeheartedly. And...LOVE Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I have read all but the most recent one. Like you, I worried about the characters - and wrote Ms. Gabaldon to ensure there was in fact more to come! LOL.

As for imagination > knowledge - absolutely. My LMNOB is a phenomenal reader, and known for her imagination, but is having a difficult time incorporating the two. She wants only to read character books (Disney princess, Barbie, etc) and I am encouraging her to read more "unknowns" like Little House on the Prairie, Judy Moody, etc.