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Useful And Fantastic: Applied Imagination – 10

Val Yule concludes her series of articles on how we can make best use of imagination.

The media push the need for innovating like mantras, but as yet they refrain from fostering it. Why not? Regular features in the press and on the Web could be imaginative, constructive, mind-arousing, funny, and encourage action. For example, a ‘Growing Edge’ with entries and discussion open to everyone, and no explicit or implicit criteria that they must be financially profitable. New ideas could receive a fair hearing, successful projects be publicized and improved, and yes, fun from wildly improbable ideas with chutzpah.

Patrick, aged 6: ‘The next war should be fought with lollies. Then nobody would be hurt, they’d only get sick.‘

Such imagination-arousing features, imaginatively done, could attract young people and adults who are aimless and at a loss, a target for pokies and other forms of waste, because they can never shine at sport, science or the arts.

Thinking can be a pleasure as much as any physical sensation - possibly reducing obesity, since brain-work requires so many calories. Social inventing offers a constructive direction for popular imagination, enterprise and leisure. People can feel more hopeful, when they try to do something about the problems that face us. Our culture can develop a thinking mindset that is alert, puzzling, curious and enterprising, so that everyone can be a full human being, making the most of their lives. Financial spin-offs should only be by-the-way, and not the prime driver, or measure of value or purpose.

Freud indicated three aspects to behaviour - the drive to act, the object of the action, and the form of action. Multiple combinations are possible. A stimulus that arouses one form of behavior in one person, can evoke different responses from another. Time-spans for responses may not be immediate, observable in laboratory experiments. Content and formats of television may affect children in the half-hour after watching, but consider also how they may continue to affect them as teenagers and adults, including the possibly stronger effects on the producers who are submerged in it, with long-term consequences.

Governments and peoples should constantly imagine the possible consequences of what they do. Add in the world’s increasing military expenditure to the increasing costs of the increasing natural catastrophes and waste of resources. The same dynamics of human nature that governments have always made use of to gain internal unity, by facing them with external political enemies, and that also animate so much future-fiction about alien space-invaders could be turned to fight the universal enemies that have no human face.

Imagine - a diverse society in which all people can co-operate with their particular talents and personalities, to see the visions, or see the problems, or the inventions that are needed, or seek answers, or test them, or promote projects and everyone can seek to put them into action and maintain them. All handicaps can be turned into assets. Cooperation can provide incentive, spiced by competition. There can be such great pleasure in finding solutions - an ecstasy in those consummations too. So everyone can have incentive to value their precious brains and alert consciousness, unmuddied by chemicals, as essential to every healthy life. ‘Human nature’ is problem-solving as well as being a problem.

The ‘story-telling animal’ able to tell one story, can also tell others. Every deliberate action beyond habit begins in the mind, and is first imagined. We can provide ourselves with new myths and concepts when the old fail.

Imagination as the ability to consider what may be possible in the real world as well as in fantasy provides great pleasure. It is also a sport, a part of being a full citizen, and a crucial response to problems insoluble by the same old answers.

We are like the mountain climber who throws a rope to climb higher or to cross a crevasse, or the rescuer throwing a rope to another who is drowning. Imagination fantasises horrors in the depths or dreams of glories above - but imagination is also the rope.

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