I was raised on a steady diet of imagination and determination. I credit my parents for the determination, but I have no idea where the imagination comes from. My older brother, perhaps? There’s something special in having a sibling who is old enough to teach, but still young enough to be an equal in discovery. Or perhaps the imagination came in with my younger brother who was far enough behind to be enthusiastically supportive of anything we older two did. Imaginations, like children, thrive in a supportive environment. All three of us were the comical result of telling two eagerly wed twenty-somethings that the rhythm method will assist them with family planning. So perhaps the imagination simply slipped in enthusiastically and found fertile ground accidentally because that’s how everything in my family was made.
The underlying sentiment I’m trying to get across here is that imagination, while deeply rooted in me since childhood, feels adopted. Accepted. Integrated. But not innate. It’s the extension on the back of the house that was there before I moved in. Somedays I notice the small cracks in my brain where imagination joins the rest of me and I wonder how it was all put together. Mostly I worry it will break off and sink into the mud.
Writer’s anxiety around their own creative sources serves as one of the grand cliches of the profession. I guarantee you that the first aggrieved audience in Ancient Greece who had to sit through a poet bemoaning the fickle nature of “the Muses” nearly died of excessive eye-rolling and moaning. It’s not that no one wants to see how the sausage is made - there will always be a fascinating story to be told when exposing the hidden costs and terrible truths behind the products that sate our desires. Tell the pig’s story well and we will follow his trials and tribulations from trough to grinder with aplomb. Nor is it that we do not find the process of creativity enlightening. We all must innovate to survive. Watching how another struggles and improves their work can illicit deep and moving empathy when it reminds us of or guides us in our own journeys. No, no one cares to hear about the elusive nature of imagination and creation for the same reason no one cares to listen to the tragic cries of a barren shopping cart. Of course sometimes you are empty and there is nothing that you can do about it. That’s the only reason you’re useful in the first place.
I look at imagination as this separate force from myself because it is devastating to contemplate that I might be responsible for creating my own passions. That I might have to be in charge of what I find inherently interesting and cool. It’s so much simpler to have someone else push me around, fill me up with ideas that I can hold on to and develop until they are ready to be checked out and consumed. When I worry about the departure of creativity, when I complain, I am labeling my own ability to listen and respond, to hold and shape, as something tragic. Fill me up, please! Give me ideas o’ you great Muses of art and intellect! I am but your humble vessel! Do not leave me as the fallow field aching for fecundity, but rain upon me your endless torrents of inspiration! Be they as harsh as a hurricane I shall not turn away from your life-giving storms of artistic thought! Take me to the produce aisle for there are great deals on avocados!
As a child I suffered from “boredom”. I slumped on a couch and sighed when Saturday morning cartoons were done and there was nothing new to hit with a stick in the backyard. My mother and father always opened a door, applied a swift foot to the ass or pat to the shoulder as the case warranted, and sent me out to go see how far the boredom went. Was it just here in the house, did it still reign at the end of the street and beyond?
Determination is knowing that everything is finite.
Down the street, around the corner, off in an abandoned field on the edge of the neighborhood, imagination waited patiently to be found. It always looked exactly like me. We played and laughed, alone or in a great host of other children, until I grew tired and went back home. Until I grew bored again and ventured off again. Ebb and flow, back and forth. Those were the tides of my youth.
I do not know why we, as adults, are so committed to our inner selves. ...This is who I truly am. That’s what I’m really like on the inside. No one knows the real me. Deep down, I’m so much more...Nor do I know why we are so in love with how we are perceived. ...Celebrity. Popularity. Status…Inside or outside, we seemed so convinced that there is something, some amount, some gain or revelation that will finally, ultimately, satisfy us. But no matter how far we crawl up our own asses or advance ourselves by crawling up everyone else’s, there’s always farther to go.
Imagination is knowing that everything is infinite.
I am older and I am still subsisting on a steady diet of imagination and determination. Still cycling between running to the edge and recoiling from the abyss. I do not know why, nor if it is natural. At this point, I just aim to stay well fed.
Which reminds me, I need to out for groceries.