Defending Imagination

We live in a cynical world. By some metrics, it becomes more cynical as time goes on–about people, institutions, even science. If it doesn’t hammer a nail literally into wood, or figuratively into the crushing weight of the Protestant Work Ethic, it’s a waste of resources, time, energy and attention.

Late stage capitalism, folks.

It didn’t take a pandemic to gut the arts. That is just, sadly, helping it to stick. Or on the other side of that coin, it merely highlights the decreasing societal esteem for the arts.

Even the term “arts” itself has become, for some, code for “lazy hippies” who scribble in chalk on the sidewalk, or children who have their “head in the clouds” because they want to dance instead of study algebra to the point of headache.

Do something useful with your life.

That’s the refrain from voices that grow louder, and coarser in this increasingly cynical time.

As a writer and actor, I naturally want to defend the arts as an institution(s). Much of what I try to do, and have always tried to do in life ties into some aspect of the arts.

Yet, defending such huge mechanisms is not in everyone’s purview. We may not have the funds to donate to the opera, or we may not have the skill to volunteer or the stomach for straight-up activism.

That’s fine, because I have good news; worry less about defending nebulous concepts like THE ARTS. You can dedicate you time, effort and opinion to defending the DNA of all the arts, imagination.

You have an imagination. You’ve known sense Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, and probably before that. You create things in your mind. Sometimes they end up on paper, or in clay, or on stage, and sometimes they do not. Sometimes creations are only in your mind. But it takes imagination. When you acknowledge this, and acknowledge that these creations internal and external are worth brainpower, (and heart power), you are defending imagination.

When you opt not to laugh out loud at a child’s “silly” game or rudimentary drawing, you are defending imagination.

When you read fiction, to yourself or to others willing to listen, you are defending imagination.

When, instead of mocking a toy, or cartoon show, or other “goofy” medium designed to enhance imagination in the world, you applaud it, or share it with those who will benefit, you are defending imagination.

When you would rather take a kick in the gut than throw a blanket on someone’s pursuit of healthy fantasy, you are defending imagination.

When you ask colleagues to talk about their flashy clothes or “wild” hair color, instead of labeling same, you are defending imagination.

You don’t have to be an artist of any kind to recognize the importance of defending imagination, because as I said earlier, you have one. Maybe you have forgotten, or perhaps you lived through the tragedy of family and/or friends that strangled, quashed or numbed your imagination because it “served no purpose,” or “it was time to grow up.” If you’re reading this now you have my permission to no longer give a shit about that. Get your imagination back.

And if you happen to be an artist? Yeah, I am pretty sure it’s your duty to stand up for imagination in all of its forms. A photographer should be the first to defend writing. The painter should take a keen interest in making sure less-fortunate people have access to musical instruments. Actors should not be able to stomach a deliberate thwarting of someone’s dreams of being an illustrator. We must be willing to defend all of it, and more, in order to keep alive the seed it all springs from: imagination.

We live is cynical times, and, for the time being, a crumbling American society in the very least. Your son’s poem or your nieces impromptu dance will not fix it. But the message you emblazon into those souls by allowing them the freedom to pursue such things will eventually lead to the type of people, type of society, that will fix things.

Defend the imagination.

2 Comments

  1. Hey, I haven’t commented on your blog in a while but I still read it. This post is encouraging, since I have been hearing the same cynical refrain over and over from family members. I also am stuck in a rut of struggling to do creative stuff that I used to do and like. Thanks for your thoughts on this topic! It’s one a lot of creatives have to grapple with.

    • Good luck moving forward in your imagination; I know you can. =)

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