I’d have to say that this basic thought defines, by itself and in two simple words, the essence of mankind. Tada!
Not convinced? Think about it for a second. It is at the root of anything significant that’s ever happened in our history – Columbus discovering the other side of the world – The Wright brothers leaving the ground on a flying machine heavier than air – Three W’s being bonded into an international web of information and communications – Everest being climbed for the first time without the use of oxygen – Man walking on the moon – Cousteau and Gagnan inventing the Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus – Pierre and Marie Curie flirting with radioactivity.
However, it is sadly also at the very core of anything terrible that ever occurred – Columbus initiating the systematic annihilation of anybody who inhabited the other side of the world – The Wachowski brothers deciding to create a sequel to the Matrix and turning a cult movie into a belly flop – Three K’s being bonded together into a white
supremacist lunacy – Everest being climbed for the first time without the use of grey matter – Man wanting the moon and ready to kill for it – The Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus becoming a direct threat to our reefs’ survival – Enola Gay dropping a single Little Boy that would kill thousands more.
All of that began with a human brain tapping into its imagination and wondering "What if?" "I wonder what it would be like to rule the world." "I wonder if I’d get more respect." "I wonder if I’ll manage to become famous." "I wonder what making a million dollars a year would allow me to buy." "I wonder if I’ll ever get rid of the people I don’t like." "I wonder if I could get rid of them without getting caught." "I wonder if there is another world out there." "I wonder if I can reach it." "I wonder what happens when we mess with atoms until they go crazy."
Then imagination would produce theories and images – and dreams – and hopes – and desires. Yes, imagination generates desires. And desires lead to greed. But they also yield change, and change is good. Yet any despot in a position of absolute power started his reign by one day imagining what it would be like to sit on the throne. On the other hand, every masterpiece in a museum was once born into the imagination of an artist.
By now you’ll have noticed that I am intentionally going in circles, oscillating between the good and the bad, between examples of inspiration and corruption. Such seems to be the consequence of imagination. It is our most powerful weapon and as such, can be devastating. But it is also our greatest gift, and it always has – and will keep – distilling every single one of man’s creations and achievements, may they be artistic, moral, symbolic, sociological, technological or purely out of this world…
Now the weird part is that this post was initially going to be about the extraordinary Festival of Lights at the VanDusen gardens. I was so mesmerized by the display of Christmas lights that I started thinking about the people behind it all and wondering what would drive them to such enjoyable extremes. From there I jumped to the conclusion that superior imagination would be needed to envision the whole project, and I got side-tracked. So I’ll post the pictures in the next entry. ;-)