…my latest piece is about imagination.
Have a listen to it on Arena here or read on…
I used to read dinosaur books as a kid. Everything about them screamed big. The oversized hardback covers and colourful illustrations. The lengthy prehistoric periods. Even their complicated names warranted the shouty ‘all-caps’ font.
GIGANTOSAURUS. TITANASAURUS. DOUBLE-MOCHA-GRANDE-SAURUS!
When it came to highlighting their magnitude, one thing that struck me was how these giant reptiles were always compared to the African elephant. In general, I’d never encountered that many elephants. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure the elephants I’d met were actually African. A person might believe it would make more sense to measure against commonplace objects, things that a child of the 80s could easily relate to. BMX bikes or space-hoppers, the fact that the Tyrannosaurus Rex weighed five-and-half-thousand Nintendo 64s. Or was as long as one-hundred-and-twenty Caramello bars. But the great thing about imagination is the ability to fill in the blanks. This skill of picturing objects or situations never experienced is a key element to creativity and something that’s widely considered to be a rarity in the animal kingdom.
Although limited in other species, we humans certainly know how to take it to the next level. Think entrepreneurship, advances in technology, the evolution of the gadget and the scope of stories in all their forms. For me it’s truly captured in our ability to build concrete worlds out of imagined foundations. Take the simplicity of something like the air guitar. There was a time when it was confined to the privacy of one’s own home, something the old man did after one too many glasses of stout. These days, not only is it common to see someone pretend to play a guitar on a night out, it’s even led to an annual air-guitar championship, where people converge from all over the world to showcase their skill at strumming the breeze.
The idea of pretending is something I see all the time with my own kids. The mundane transforms to a setting. Household objects become characters. I’ve been roped into countless worlds but in truth, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was running around the park as a child myself. We were soldiers. Explorers. Cowboys. There was never a character of office worker or IT consultant. You wouldn’t catch any of the lads acting out the part of lab technician in a supervisory capacity. And perhaps it is the destiny of most to end up in the shallower end of the imagination pool. But sometimes, when I meet an old friend from school and we talk about our jobs and the economy, house-prices and bin charges, all the boring things that grown-ups are expected to talk about, I can’t help but shake the feeling that for some of us, the pretending never really went away.