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Imagining Imagination

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last you create what you will." - George Bernard Shaw

It was three years ago this week that I went through one of the most apocalyptic experiences of my life...I had my first full-blown, requiring-hospitalization manic attack. My reaction to the first one, not having a clue what was happening to either me, my thoughts or my body was understandably one of fear, uncertainty, embarrassment, shock, disbelief, sadness coupled with a huge dose of "why-me?"-angst. It took me but an instant to add it on to my list of "here's still something else that makes you an oddity in the world". Heavy, self-serving sigh.




It was 26 years ago this week, on April 12, in 1980, that a Marathon of Hope was begun.

I remember it clearly, there was a moment, defined in seconds, that turned my self-pity all around. I have carried in my wallet for a quarter of a century now, a tribute I wrote to Terry Fox on the day he was buried, after his unsuccessful but inspiring attempt to run the equivalent of a marathon a day across Canada after he had lost a leg to cancer. He ran 5376 kilometres before he had to give up the race due to a re-occurence of the cancer. It was his way of talking.

I wrote (on the back of a computer punch card!) "July 2, 1981: Today we buried Terry Fox. He meant something to each of us --- uniquely. I can't say what he meant to me --- I can just feel it. May I continue to feel it for the rest of my life. I need it."

He was, is, and always shall be my personal hero and inspiration. In my moments of personal self-wailing, I became self-absorbed, and forgot to look outward for inspiration. One day, about six months after my attack, I remembered the note, pulled it out from my wallet and read it, and ever since that moment I have considered my bipolarism to be a gift, a resource, something unique to use if I can find a way to do so. I'd be lying if I didn't say I still have my moments...I don't have the strength of character that Terry had.

But that was when my theory of 'is' took birth in a concrete form. That was when I took four questions, put them together to form a 'gestaltic' sense of being, and have spent a great deal of time and imagination since thinking about, writing about, debating about some ideas I have. I am the first to acknowledge they may be crazy, they may be so full of "professional" holes you could drive the "shock and awe" troops of George Bush through....twice! But that doesn't deter me one twit, because I'm evolving them from a clearly stated layman's viewpoint, for that is what I am, and my imagination dictates to me the desire to pursue it. And so I shall.

"I think, therefore I am", said Rene Descartes, a sixteenth century mathematician and philosopher. So do I. But beyond thinking, I also imagine. I imagine what the imagination must be like. And I wonder how I am capable of imagining such things. Does my imagination allow it to imagine itself, or do I have to have some outside capacity first to allow me to think a thought of imagining my imagination? Do I use my imagination in the process? Is it a "part" of the physical brain, the ephemeral conscious thought, the even-more-ephemeral subconscious thought, or the ineffable (a new word I just learned this week...that which is beyond what is capable of expressing with words, beyond the explicable)?

My four questions came from four different people at wildly different points in my life.

1.The first was from my mother with the patience of Job, who one day asked me, after a typical and incessant chatter of unending questions fired her way when I was about 8 years old, "Why do you ask so many questions?". At the time, I took it as a signal that was saying "Shaddup, willya!", but now I realize she was teaching me to ask the right question(s), and ALL the right question(s).

2. The second, which I briefly addressed in a much earlier blog, was from a four year old nephew, when he and I (about 18 years old at the time) were staring out a window at a wondrous starry sky, and he asked "What's past all the stars?", and when I replied, "More space", he said, "I know that..but I mean once you get past everything that's out there, what is there?" In other words, tell me about the ineffable, Uncle Rick.

3.The third question asked when I was a teacher, also addressed in an earlier blog, was from a frustrated student working on an assignment who asked rhetorically, "Why don't we just build a computer that completely programs itself?".

4. The fourth was asked by a young lady I met in the hospital, who over lunch the first time I met her asked me, "Rick, do you think I'm a bad person?" Without hestitation, and just knowing I was right in my answer, I said instantly "Of course not"...without knowing a thing about her. That was my first experience with understanding the non-understandable, and it left me shaken, empowered, enlightened, excited, and emboldened.

Individually considered, those questions would have been forgotten and remained unanswered by me. But putting them together in the same frame of reference, like linking two random thoughts to create a third, I formulated a thesis that postulated if I could "build" a "mental model" of a "mind-state" "computer", capable of handling all questions, even those that extend well beyond the scope of binary logic, or fuzzy logic, or any other kind of logic or dis-logic, was all-inclusive of not only the effable but the ineffable, then we could work backwards using the model from "there" to "here" --- to where we are today, and by doing so, retrace the steps we will have to take to get us from "here" to "there" someday. It's a common business algorithm, goal-oriented processing.

I speculated that it would likely have to be in the form of the human brain (not the physical human brain, but the "thought and idea" brain), since
"hardware computers" are limited to a subset of what our brains can imagine building them as. The idea of being bipolar gave me the mental "capability" of cloning my own brain inside itself, (not the "two halves" as you would physically see if you cracked my skull open and looked..left hemisphere/right hemisphere stuff), but rather two brains that are completely and totally immersed and imbedded in each other. More Siamese twins than Siamese twins. One body, two essences. Indistinguishable one from the other. An out-of-body experience inside the body. Find the words that get the idea across to you, whatever works. In my imagination, I exist as two of me, so identical in every respect that I can't tell me apart. Once done, I use my imagination to assign one of me the task of being the observer/reporter, and the other the task of being me...without being aware of the reporter/observer being present. That's important, because then I would be different than I am.

Now, this is a pile of crazy talk, right. Hooey with a double-capital H!! I'm on drugs. I'm schizophrenic. I'm hypomanic. I'm losing it. Loosen the buckles of the straight jacket...we have a new candidate for the rubber-walled looney bin.

Not so fast.

I close with a list of quotes and thoughts from eminent thinkers on the topic of "imagination". Let them be the judge. You be the judge. I choose not to sit in judgement.

"Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them." - Dr. Ralph Gerard.

This world is but a canvas to our imaginations. " - Henry David Thoreau

"Reality is for those who lack imagination" - anon

"Why does the eye see things more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?" - Leonardo da Vinci

"I used to be too subjective, and I was always tempted to find my inner self in the exterior, and dissipate my imagination on other people and on life". - Oskar Kokoschka

"Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless." - Jamie Paolinetti

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein

"Few people have the imagination for reality." - Wolfgang von Goethe

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere else." - Albert Einstein

"A person's life is dyed with the colour of his imagination." - Marcus Aurelius Antonius

"Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." - Plato

"Imagine all the people living life in PEACE,
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will live as one". - John Lennon



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  • I'm Evydense
  • From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • And I'm tired of living in the shadow of narrow-mindedness and ignorance. So here's the fax, Jack! "The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and three hundred and sixty-two admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision." - Lynne Lavner*** I'm confused; curious; satisfied; realistically resigned to being a frustrated idealist; usually at peace with myself, but not always. Amazed at how little I know, and wondering how much I need to understand.
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