By Bernardo Marçolla, author of All You Can Imagine
Many of us tend to conceive of imagination as a purely childlike attribute, with a basis more in fantasy than in reality—and that it is of little use in the face of the demands of the adult world. I totally disagree.
Yes, imagination is an attribute that we are all graced with in childhood, but many of us are not fortunate enough to have it nourished and strengthened. When it is nourished, it makes a lot of difference throughout our lives, because imagination is our essential tool for being creative. And creativity does not mean fantasy: on the contrary, it is linked to our possibilities of unveiling the real and solving problems. In other words, being creative is an essential condition for us to deal satisfactorily with reality, which is always changing. In the face of a pandemic scenario, this is clearer than ever.
Limited in our coming and going, often isolated at home and with great contact restrictions that affect the work and study of practically all of us, we are invited to reinvent ourselves and our practices. Our bodies are confined, while our spirits are called upon to make enormous changes. We have to open up to new possibilities for action, creation, and sharing. That’s where, before anything else, we need imagination.
It Is Not Enough to Want to Imagine
The problem is that it is not enough to want to imagine. Imagination has to be cultivated as a space that we gradually open up in ourselves. Another image is that of a garden, cultivated day by day. Knowing how to cultivate the imagination is an art in itself and this learning is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids and students.
We can say it is a learning process very close to self-knowledge, as it begins with the awareness of our own rhythms. At the same time, it is also an opening to the world: as we open ourselves to what is around us, little by little, we can tune into the universe itself.
It is difficult to say where the imagination comes from: if it comes from the depths of ourselves, from the collective source that shapes our own humanity or from the Cosmos itself. It does not matter. One hour it comes, either as a sudden inspiration that arrives abruptly, or slowly as a mosaic that gradually takes shape and meaning. And when it comes, it is as if we transcend ourselves and find a great potential that has not yet been explored.
Thus are born not only works of art, but also the great discoveries that, from time to time, transform the history of humanity. And here is a warning: imagination is just a beginning—which is followed by a lot of discipline and hard work, in both the arts and sciences. The glimpse that the imagination offers us is only realized through our own efforts. Only in this way does the imagination take shape and effectively become a creative act.
In turn, whatever comes to be created does not belong to us alone. The fruit of creative work also realizes its potential only when it is shared. And then, intersubjectively, imagination shows its true face when we recognize in the work of the other the potential that lies in ourselves. And we are inspired. It is like water in the garden that we cultivate within us.
Grow a Garden in Yourself
So, I would like to offer some simple tips so that everyone can start (or continue) to cultivate their inner space of openness to imagination:
- Spend time with yourself. Do meditation, mindfulness, or just sit for a while and pay attention to your own breathing. Or dance. Find your own rhythms.
- Surround yourself with something that enchants you and spend time with things around you. Anything goes: listen (with your heart) to a song; spend time with your pet; smell a flower; see the sunset, the stars, or the flight of birds. Read a poem. Let your soul be touched.
- Pay attention to your dreams and, if possible, make a small journal recording what you remember.
- Learn to listen to your intuition. It is there.
- Engage in some creative activity, without any performance obligation. It can be handicrafts, manual works, artistic activities. Just open a space in your life for something to be built, without requiring any perfection or specific result from yourself. But try to do something that delights, amuses, or relaxes you.
- Once in a while do something new that you have never done before. Get out of your comfort zone.
- Learn to make mistakes. Understand that error is part of any learning. Everything is provisional. Each time we do something, we do it differently and possibly better. Don’t judge yourself. The most important thing is to continue, to keep moving.
- Seek to share your experiences with people who are meaningful to you. You will also be a source of inspiration.
My invitation, then, is that in the pandemic, even in the confines of our bodies, our souls can fly more freely than ever. May this be encouraged in our families and in our classes, that children and adults can learn to create together. May each challenge, no matter how big, mean an invitation for us to go beyond our apparent circumstances.
Bernardo Marçolla is an author and illustrator who holds degrees in psychology and literature and has over 10 years of experience as a professor of psychology. Since 2012, he has been an analyst in the human resources area of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, and in 2017, he published the book Psychology and Ecology: Nature, Subjectivity, and Its Intersections. The ideas in that book inspired him to create accessible books for children on big, metaphysical concepts. He loves chocolate and still has not given up on learning to draw a little better. He lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with his wife and two cats.
Free Spirit books by Bernardo:
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