Controlling the Imagination

Photo by Norma Desmond

Baltasar Gracian, in his book “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” writes, “Keep your imagination under control. You must sometimes correct it, sometimes assist it. For it is all important for our happiness and balances reason. The imagination can tyrannize, not being content with looking on, but influences and even often dominates our life (Gracian 15).”

Our imagination covers over and creates what we call our “daily life.” The bubbling emergence of images, sounds, voices and ideas well up and overflow through the imagination. Our social networking and online identities also take shape in the imagination we have of how we would like to be perceived, how we would like to see ourselves through the eyes of others. The imagination is all-powerful, perhaps one of the most powerful gifts we have. Minds have imagined iPods and atomic bombs, mobile phones and the Tokyo Tower. The cityscape begins with imagination and is realized through imaginations. That is, a city or on online community is only as powerful as the imaginations that gather there.

Our cities and Web communities are convergent points, networks of imagination. Through Twitter, I can imagine the other and, moreover, am forced to imagine them, for they are not here with me. Their voice points me to links, to ideas or perhaps only to an imagination of a simple part of their day (eating breakfast, preparing for bed, etc.) The facebook profile as well requires imagination and perhaps I imagine some “you” that you have not yet imagined.

However, the imagination has a way of haunting humans as well. Perhaps we have all experienced the recurrence of a certain image, a kind of film that flashes before one’s eyes, a film that we would rather turn off and forget about, a film that comes from the other side, from the abyss of the imagination. The fear of the hacker is not only fear of monetary loss, but also the terrifying image of one’s identity being manipulated…having someone else’s imagination manipulate oneself.

This morning my friend asked me if I was ever haunted by something and how can one deal with an overactive imagination. I turned to Gracian’s wisdom of controlling the imagination and recognizing the haunting image as being imagined. When the haunting image is recognized as imaginary, perhaps it can bring some solace to the day. Perhaps one can move out and sweep the floor or fold the clothes with some new peace. Moreover, a controlled and balanced imagination may help one to create better art, music or text. That is, a more precise imagination may be cultivated and striven for.

How can we imagine ourselves into a better life? Is the life that we are leading the best possible life? How has one’s imagination of oneself served to shape that self in actuality? Can we imagine ourselves and our situation in a different and possibly more fulfilling way? Perhaps this is worthy of our attention.

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One thought on “Controlling the Imagination

  1. Pingback: Plan Your Life Wisely: Three Days with Gracian « The Eyeslit-Crypt

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