The imagination conundrum

the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
“she’d never been blessed with a vivid imagination”
synonyms: imaginative faculty, creative power, fancy; 

the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
“she was set in her ways and lacked imagination”
synonyms: creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness; 

the part of the mind that imagines things.
“a girl who existed only in my imagination”


Today I have been thinking about the notion of imagination and wondering where imagination comes from. There are so many questions that I don’t know the answer to: does your intelligence directly relate to your imagination? Can you increase your imaginative abilities?  Does your environment affect your imagination?

My mate Bert (Mr Albert Einstein for those not as close to him) seemed to think that imagination is a key value of intelligence: ‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination’. I guess he was thinking that nothing gets created without being imagined first. Imagination equals innovation. Thomas Edison didn’t just fabricate a light bulb out of thin air, there had to be an idea first and without imagination there would be no idea. We’d all be sitting around reading Mary Shelley by candlelight if there was no imagination.

Obviously your intelligence would significantly influence your imagination but I would love to know what other external factors are involved, if any. A few years back I read an article about how intelligence is something crazy like 80% hereditary, and I was completely appalled. Not because my parents are simple by any means, it just felt highly unfair that I was limited by my own genetics, something I had no say in. I was trapped with the IQ I had been given and no matter how hard I tried I wouldn’t be winning a Nobel Peace Prize any time soon. I wonder if imagination is the same?

I like to think that it isn’t. I feel that environmental factors would play some role in your imagination. I mean, if you think about children in war torn countries, they wouldn’t have the ability to daydream and play dress ups like normal children, their only focus would be survival. Then you have the polar opposite of this: a child from a non-warring country that is given the freedom to embrace their imagination, and enjoy the more whimsical aspects of life. If no seed was ever planted how would something grow?

As we become adults it seems that we probably rely less on our imagination, and more on what we see as logical. We all end up working so hard on ‘logical’ priorities that by the end of the day we use external influences, such as television and video games to escape, that can really only impede imagination. You don’t need to use your imagination in these endeavours as all the imagery is presented to you like a piece of chocolate cake on a plate, ready for you to take a bite. There is definitely no imagination required to watch a reality tv show. If anything, I would say you probably wouldn’t need any cognitive functioning ability at all to watch Kim Kardashian stare at her backside in the mirror.  It does make me wonder: if you don’t use it, do you lose it?

Even though I haven’t really answered any of my questions, it has made me think about my imaginative potential. Without bothering to do extensive research, or any at all really, I feel that if I cultivate an environment open to the imaginary world then surely my imagination will reward me with innovation.  It certainly can’t hurt to take a rambling walk,  close the door on reality, and let my mind wander off into a fanciful daydream.

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