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Beating reality

My family stuck its kids with labels. Mine was ‘vivid imagination’, always said in italics, with that sideways shrug of the mouth. I knew that, like my lisp and wubbish unwolled Rs, the grown-ups hoped I’d grow out of it. I’m delighted I didn’t.

Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.

Mark Twain

It seems to me that all the worthwhile stuff involves an act of the imagination:

  • Hope.

  • Falling in love.

  • Deciding to go on an adventure.

  • Empathy, and so friendship.

  • Shiny new inventions.

  • Changing oneself, changing the world.

  • Having faith (in anything, or anyone).

  • Enjoying a story.

Far from being the impediment my famiIy feared, imagination is my light shining through the accumulation of bothersome facts, that experiential clutter, that can squish all the joy out of a person. Take flying, for example. As a child, I dreamed of flying and believed I would, until a grown-up handed me some so-called knowledge, making me doubt I could and, as J.M.Barrie and Douglas Adams warn, made flying impossible. But I can still imagine flying, especially on windy days, feel the thrill of it, the difficulty steering and cold toes.

'When the imagination sleeps, words are emptied of their meaning.'

Albert Camus

Once upon a time, I tried adulting for a while. I still used my imagination, but mainly for play, not taking it seriously. I’m afraid that made it shrink. Since I’ve been writing, I’ve been using my imagination whenever I can and taking it very seriously indeed; I must believe in the places and the people I’ve made-up if their story is to mean something to others. As a result, my imagination has swelled. Wherever I go, a huge invisible balloon surrounds my head, filled with wonders, and moments of exquisite tragedy, and unfinished jokes. I recommend this state of being, in which everything experienced can be seen in different lights and hold so many possibilities.

'Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.'

Albert Einstein

The marvellous thing is that imagining is so easy to do. We can all do it now. Go on, go somewhere, wherever you like so long as it isn’t where and when you are now, go there and meet the new, someone or something astonishing.

'Imagination is a force of nature.

Is this not enough to make a person full of ecstasy? '

Saul Bellow

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