Saturday, October 25, 2008

Faith and reasoning tutorial on imagination

I’ve been thinking about another problem with how modern people think these days, and how to best express it in one of my continuing series of faith and reasoning skills. Tonight I’ve thought of a good exercise to share with you after I explain the problem, in order to help all my readers to better understand and remedy the problem. This should be of concern to everyone, but of particular interest to those in the creative and media arts and profession, who are instrumental in either deliberately or inadvertently contributing to this problem.

I’ve noticed over the past several decades that people have lost their ability to use their imagination in an authentic way. If I were speaking to a group of people right now, instead of entering words on my laptop keyboard, I’d expect to see some surprise at this statement. I’d also expect some to argue that people have never been more imaginative than they are today! But I would shake my head and say, “No, actually, humans are in a terrible period of imagination aridity and furthermore, what they now think is imagination is actually a trap of logic, an error in logic that is contributing toward much of the depression and confusion in the world today.” Here is why.

Genuine imagination is to visualize in one’s mind a new and creative situation or viewpoint. Imagination is used in both practical applications, such as problem solving in the workplace, and also for entertainment purposes, such as writing a fantasy novel. Humans have always used their imaginations as part of their day to day life, even in primitive times. Imagination usually took the very practical form of wondering what will happen next in a very prosaic day to day basis. Hunters would wonder if they would find food that day, and if they were nomadic and hunting in new territory, they would wonder what is beyond the curve of the next hill, or what is within the forest. As humans became developed explorers, they wondered what the shape the earth was, flat or round, and what types of people and animals they would encounter in their travels. As people had their industrial revolution and entered a more modern era with leisure time, where they could afford entertainment, people started not only wondering what types of experiences were beyond their reach (such as what it would be like to go into space, or at the bottom of the sea) but eventually, for entertainment purposes, made up scenarios. This is where modern humans are today, where actually the bulk of mass media entertainment is making stuff up. People make up scenarios based on things like being a celebrity or a hero, and they also make up entire world views, such as in science fiction or fantasy. And that’s cool and if that’s all that was going on, I would agree that those are expressions of imagination.

But I have noticed two problems with the use of “imagination” today in those areas, such that it actually renders those applications of imagination to be not only invalid but dangerous. That is that humans have developed a huge thirst for imagination at exactly the same, unfortunate, time that they are less able to distinguish between reality and imagination itself. One would have expected, as I certainly did, that people would be more sophisticated in this century at telling the difference between reality and imagination, and not blurring the two. But actually humans have terribly regressed, where they are totally confusing imagination with reality, and thus are no longer utilizing pure and clean imagination.

There are several reasons for this erroneous blending of exercises in reality and imagination. One is that despite increased scientific knowledge, young people are raised to be increasingly superstitious, rather than increasingly skilled in factual scientific reasoning. And no, friend atheists who read this blog, I am not referring to the religious folk who deny certain aspects of science such as evolution! LOL, nice try to blame them, though, ha. No, the people who persist in thinking of literal seven day creation, or of humans side by side with dinosaurs are not the problem. The problem is the broad based societal embracing of inflated views of individual “spirituality.” Shibboleths such as “we are all connected” and “what goes around comes around,” to say nothing of the infiltration of occult and magical thinking among mainstream otherwise sensible people is the problem. To summarize the problem, many people no longer understand that they are using their imagination when they do so and in fact, they think they are receiving “hidden” “knowledge” from “the spirit plane” or the “universe.” There are people who deliberately and consciously believe this, that there is really no such thing as imagination and that they are “channeling” the fruits of their imagination efforts, while others are unconscious of this societal tainting of their thinking. In fact, the people who believe in these notions, that any idea that pops into their little pea (and sometimes pee) brains is “channeled,” “placed,” or “implanted” there are very powerful in media, and they actually manipulate their output to put other people’s imagination entertainment in slavery and servitude to the “channeling” that these morons think they are receiving.

Virtually every work of “imaginary” entertainment, whether book, movie or video game, passes at some point in their creation through the hands of “believers” of the “all imagination is a secret message of channeling from the universe” and they drive the messages hard. Editors who have this philosophy emphasize the depressive and dreary (or inanely airy-fairy inflation) messages in the areas where they think the authors are “onto something.” I’ve noticed this for years. What first alerted me to this was many years ago when I wrote a fantasy trilogy (I’ve spoken about this before here on my blog) and let some friends read it. The Jungian who I realized was a stalking cultist kept asking me, “where” I “got” the book from. Um, duh, I imagined it and wrote it. But she was totally stuck on asking me repeatedly “where” this was “coming from.” That’s when I realized that she was an example of moderns who have had their thinking so messed up by their own hidden cult beliefs and also inflated opinions of humans (reincarnated and so forth, when in fact, of course, there is no reincarnation). I thought she was just a dangerous flake in that regard and so while it disturbed me, I did not put it into “societal crisis” terms at that time (late 1980’s to late 1990’s). However, I have seen that this “thinking” has infiltrated everything that comes out of the media complex (yeah, complex is the right term alright, as in psychological complex) and also in just regular discourse, from individuals talking to the “talk show circuit” and worst of all, in the “spirituality” and “self help” business. Rather than discerning one’s thoughts as being deliberately reality based or deliberately imagination based at a given time, people urge each other to “listen to your inner voice” and “value your intuitions.” OH MY GOD. If our early ancestors “valued their intuitions” when they had a random goofy thought while out in the fields or hunting, I guarantee humans would not have survived for long.

Brain studies show that when a certain part of the brain is damaged due to accident or disease, the patient may have bizarre random images that seem like they are on an “acid trip.” This does not mean that if they are imagining seeing these weird images that they actually exist in reality somewhere, or are a “spiritual message.” It means that we can identify that the brain has self ordering mechanisms to distinguish among reality, deliberate imagination, and inadvertent imagination. When that brain region is damaged, the patients suffer from what I am calling here as “inadvertent imagination,” which means they are creating imaginary scenarios in their mind, as they would when doing normal works of imagination, but in this case it is not deliberate and not under control.

So what moderns have done is actually damage their own brains. They have not bashed themselves and each other on that region of the brain (though they might as well have). But by losing the most crucial and vital of survival traits, which is the ability to distinguish between reality and imagination, and repeatedly reinforcing among each other that blurring, society has and is continuing to inflict upon each other what can only be described as anti-survival instinct brain damage in that regard. Every time that someone stokes a person’s “valuing” of their every pea brained random thought as being “meaningful,” “significant,” “intuitive,” “a message from beyond,” “so called fake ‘past life memories,’” and that old favorite “channeling the spirit,” they are chipping away at damaging their own brains and those they are influencing.

When one has a huge societal problem like this, the answer is both easy and difficult. It’s difficult because it’s so automatic and pernicious that people don’t even realize they are doing it, or subject to it, except for those who are being deliberately manipulative. And truthfully, even they got more than they bargained for and I am sympathetic. They don’t realize that like overusing an imaginary muscle that they think they actually have in their arm, for example, that they end up crippling their entire arm. So this is a huge problem and one that would make me extremely worried about humanity all night long if I hadn’t already thrown in the towel about how willfully screwed up you all have become. But I’m mad on behalf of those who have been and continue to be victimized by this crap. A lot of joy has been taken out of the world because of this, in addition to, as I said, the danger that humans’ survival instinct has been seriously impaired, causing them to make very bad decisions and substituting inflated depressive messages instead of entertainment. And I am not being a killjoy and saying that there should be no science fiction or fantasy, for example. Far from it as I am a great fan of some of both genres. However, I have dropped both like hot potatoes because both have been now thoroughly infested by this “new age,” occult, superstitious, and inappropriately magnified significance of imagination as being somehow “gateways” to “channeled” “actual” “knowledge.”

So I am not one to point out a problem and say, “Whoa, this is bad, what a bummer trip. Wow, humans have really messed up and boy are you all in trouble of your own making” and not try to help, if anyone actually listens, huh? That is why I did not want to write this topic blogging until I thought of a detoxing and discernment suggestion that can be used as an exercise. This is kind of like those popular books that supposedly help in one’s writing and artistic creativity (and by the way, a lot of them reinforce, both deliberately and inadvertently, exactly what I am warning about). So I decided that the best way to help my readers examine this problem is to engage in, right here and now, an exercise in pure imagination. By writing such an exercise as a model, I want to teach you to use that technique for yourselves. So now I will demonstrate what I want each of you to do in whatever context is most suitable for you. I’m going to use the scenario that I am a science fiction author, sitting down to write a story.

I am going to imagine what a planet would be like if its only life form was the daffodil flower. So the first image that popped into my mind is a planet that is totally covered with bright yellow daffodils! I am sitting here picturing what that would look like. I guess it would be kind of a golden color from far away, since the flowers would be too small to distinguish at a distance. It’s only as one approached the planet that one would eventually understand that it is entirely covered with vegetation that the vegetation is the same bright yellow color and that when one is close up, that these are trillions of the same flowers.
When I first thought of this, just before signing on to the blog, I realized that would actually be a disturbing sight, maybe like snow blindness, where one cannot see in the glare of unrelieved bright white snow all around. So I decided to imagine that the planet is covered with a mixture of the standard color earth daffodils, which range from white through the pale to bright yellows and into the oranges, including a rather salmon pink variety. So now I picture the planet with that mixture. Still, that is a bit much. Therefore there really has to be some sort of landforms, so let’s imagine that usual division of land and ocean that we have on earth. So the continents of this imaginary planet are now, in our mind’s eye, covered with the multi-color daffodils.
If I am serious about writing some sort of short story about this planet, I might imagine how daffodils probably developed, like trees on earth, some gradation in their height and width. Maybe there would be daffodil meadows comprising low regular sized flowers, and then daffodil forests of really tall daffodils. What would a tall, tree like daffodil look like? If the stalk is like a tree trunk, maybe they are a beautiful translucent green (because as gardeners know, daffodils have a pale green tube like stem that contains a lot of sticky sap). So I can imagine a really pretty view of the trunk like stalks of huge daffodils in the forest, where they glow with a pale green, and where they break the sap flows out. Maybe there are sap streams of water as a result? Ponds that form if a bunch of these forest daffodils fall in a windstorm or something.
OK, do you see how easy this is? Think of a scenario and just imagine what it would be like using logic, as I did here. This is the beginning of being reality based but being able to imagine something that does not in actuality exist. Since you went through this exercise “along with me,” as you are reading it just as I thought it through, I can assure you that I’m not “channeling” a “vision” of some nutty planet that is actually “out there” covered with daffodils. Also, I did not think of the daffodil in this exercise because I have some hidden issue or need (and thus an oh so spiritual message) regarding daffodils.

But more important, I don’t have the need to ruin my exercise by now bringing in the “de rigueur” depressive motifs that have taken over all uses of the imagination. I could go ahead and write a really nice and sweet little short story about the planet of daffodils (even with heavy emotional constructs such as daffodil angst, ha ha) but not “work into” the poor and innocent story the themes that the depressive cultists think must be in all “imagination” in order to reinforce their imaginary delusions about the world and universe order. No trapped souls in the daffodils. No daffodil vampires. No superhero daffodil that must rise up in order to protect the rest of the daffodils from a peony that arrives on an asteroid. No need to say that some of the daffodils are “gay.” The daffodils are not a sign from a destroyed “past civilization” that warns that too much gardening is no good. The daffodils are not arranged to be a “secret calendar” with “numinous dates and events.” Did I miss any of the freak show “imaginary” shibboleths?

Why are the same depressive themes presented as being “imagination” for “entertainment” over and over? Notice it is a handful of themes that repeat themselves, as I easily listed them thinking of them offhand as I wrote this. But this does not mean that I cannot be imaginary in a way that is artistically challenging. In other words, I could make this short story about the daffodil planet be ‘serious literature.’ The trouble is not that people are being all inflated with “good and evil” and battle of the universe type themes, though that is the reflex that it seems no one says no to anymore. The trouble is that just the same five or six tired and depressive fake world views are trotted out and shoved down everyone’s throat as entertainment and “imagination,” but are instead, “stories” that are in service of people who have some very strange false beliefs in actuality, that they propagandize through the entertainment media.

So if I was actually writing this story, I could make it serious literature and still be pure imagination. How? Here’s one example. Suppose I wrote the first half of the story describing this lovely planet, without saying how or who is viewing it, I just write as if someone is walking around and observing. Maybe then I gradually reveal as kind of a surprise, that the viewer is someone from earth who has been sent to this planet as a post traumatic stress disorder therapy. So, for example, it is an Iraq war veteran who is walking around, who sets up camp, who stays there for a week, and then is picked up by his shuttle craft. And then we find out that humans have “cultivated” this daffodil garden on an asteroid for use in PTSD therapy. So I could make all sorts of serious points, human drama issues, and imagine what it would be like for a PTSD soldier to think his or her thoughts while camping on this “therapy asteroid,” ha.

Well, if this story now appears in print or film, I’ll finally have proof of the many times I’ve been plagiarized, ha.

Anyway, I suggest that those of you, especially young people in school who are in a creative or academic mindset anyway, and are the target of much of the negative use of “imagination” that I describe, try this exercise out. Pick any simple scenario and work with it. Keep it very simple, as I demonstrate, because when you try to be complex in your first attempts, that is when the politically correct and warped themes creep in unnoticed. You are not avoiding challenging themes or real life issues, but you need to hit “reset” buttons first by being simple. The planet that is filled with only one substance is an ideal model to follow, just as I showed. So think of some sort of “what if” scenario that is like this case study example in structure, where first you imagine and describe a very simple scenario of setting. That is the purest of imagination. When you’ve done that a few times you can discern populating your case study imaginary scenario with increasingly complexity of theme, characters and action, as I did in thinking of the Iraq war veteran as the main character protagonist, seeing the planet through his or her eyes, then layering his or her situation (PTSD) and then the surprise ending, which is that this planet was created as a place of rehab by good old regular earth folks. Wouldn’t it be nice? You can be creatively deep and real without being compulsively dark, as unfortunately, all too much of “imagination” and “entertainment” is today.

Anyway, now I have tons of ideas how I could develop this short story into a series, ha. So I’ll just leave it with this example for now, since that is the purpose of this blogging tonight. I hope that you find this helpful and I do encourage everyone (yes, even those fat cat Hollywood producers) to hit their personal creativity reset button and try this exercise out. I’ll write more as I think of it on this subject, and in the meantime good luck and all the best with this exercise and thought process.