When you hear the expression “it’s just your imagination,” what comes to mind? If it’s along the lines of considering imagination as something somewhat immature and merely fantastical, take care: you’re seriously undervaluing one of the most powerful functions of our minds.
Imagination is more than child’s “make believe.” It’s the ability to see or otherwise conceive of something that doesn’t currently exist in manifest form. And though it doesn’t exist in manifest form, we are able to relate to it as though it is “real” or a “real possibility.” In doing so, we have a chance of bringing it into being.
Another way of looking at it: human imagination accounts for all those aspects of our lived experience which do not organically arise from the natural world. The products of imagination include almost everything you can (likely) see around you right now as you read: the device you’re looking at, the chair you’re sitting upon, the bookshelf, television, dining room table, carpet, lighting, ceiling, roof, and electrical wires that connect you to the grid that illuminates the room in which you’re reading.
Imagination is our way of casting ourselves forward into a future state and envisioning possibilities. It includes our ability to manipulate concepts, perceptions, memories, and other mental images in the search of something new and valuable. It’s essential to creativity. As Albert Einstein famously stated: “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.”
We collectively imagine when we live into the agreement of our shared social constructs. For example: what is money? What is law, or justice, or brand identity? While we certainly do not agree on the answer to these questions, most of us agree that the constructs “exist,” and to a large part, we agree to the roll they play in our lives, for better or worse. In fact, we have made them so real that a person’s life can be as adversely effected by an unfavorable legal decision as it can be by experiencing a flood or fire or other natural disaster. Law is but one of the shared mental constructs which have developed and enthroned themselves over time through our imagining of how society ought to be structured.
Hopefully you can see that imagination is one of the most powerful mental activities in which we can engage. Especially in regard to applied creativity, it’s less important whether something is “imaginary” or “real,” and more important that our understanding of the context of the situation aligns with our imagination in order to produce something of value.
So the next time you wonder “is it just imagination,” remove the “just,” and let the imagination flow!
img credit: hdscreen.me