love and heretics

It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness

On Imagination and facts.

In honor of my new friend , archaeopteryx1, who got me thinking. 😉

I have mentioned that in the past, when I was a believer I struggled with magical thinking. I had been taught a pretty literal interpretation of the events in the bible. A snake spoke to humans, The Red Sea was parted with a rod, Leprosy was cured by dipping in water seven times, (an act of obedience). A baby was born to a 90 year old woman. There was a virgin birth, people died and were resurrected, people were healed, the blind made to see, the lame made to walk. Demons could posses people and pigs, could be prayed out of people into pigs…Jesus walked on the water, controlled the storm. The winds and waves obeyed him. Add to that …verses that say “Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:17-23) And again (Matthew 19:26 and Luke 18:27).”…,”Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:26-37).   To a child, raised on this as fact, it makes reality a bit wobbly. Science rules/laws are just sort of guidelines. ANYTHING is possible. Not only did I believe as a child that animals could talk, (if god wanted them to) I could end up pregnant as a virgin, (missing a period totally freaked me out) , people could be raptured at any moment, others left behind, it affected everything else. I had hopes that if I kept checking my closet, the back would be filled with snow, and Narnia..Aslan would be there. Or wonderland.

Upon leaving faith and my magical thinking behind, (as eventually reality collided with my magical beliefs and I was forced to let one or the other go) I immediately went to the other extreme. Thinking I must put all that behind me, and only use rational thinking, apply critical thinking skills, reason above all!

It didn’t take me long to feel I had died inside. where did love fit? Art? Music? Stories? Humor?

The realization that imagination is a very important aspect of our humanity was the next step of the journey.

I had flipped from one extreme, (only imagination/magical thinking with no balance) to the other.

The trick is in the combination and balance of the two. Both necessary components for our continuation, our legacy, humanities future. Albert Einstein said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

We now know that there is a connection between imagination and our ability to empathize. A key to our survival.

I just recently ran into this quote by Carl Sagan. Which seems to state better than I ever could the unique balance required in our forward progress.

While imagination is the source of inspiration in seeking new knowledge, it can also be dangerous if not subjected to discipline; a fertile imagination needs to be balanced by criticism and judgment. This is, of course, quite different from saying it should be repressed or crushed. The imagination merely enables us to wander into the darkness of the unknown where, by the dim light of the knowledge that we carry, we may glimpse something that seems of interest. But when we bring it out and examine it more closely it usually proves to be only trash whose glitter had caught our attention. Things not clearly seen often take on grotesque forms. Imagination is at once the source of all hope and inspiration but also of frustration. To forget this is to court despair.” Carl Sagan

To our children, let us encourage imagination, fiction, fantasy, but with that let us slowly build a discipline of critical thinking that will keep them from falling into a dangerous magical thinking, the hope that leads to despair, but instead be filled with rational hope, allowing  them the skills necessary to be inventive, empathetic, and able to balance reason with love, rationality with humor and kindness, science and math, with art, literature, and music.



  1. Couldn’t agree more. Imagination is magic. The method of the spell might vary, but it requires a recipe.

    When i was a kid I played competition tennis. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it. Always interested in things, I’d watched a documentary on eastern mysticism, and heard about a piece of magic called Mantra. Now, I’d missed the part in the film about Mantra not actually being magic, just a word to describe an act. But that didn’t matter. Believing it was magic I would, when times were tough and I needed an Ace, quietly chant to myself, “Mantra, mantra, mantra.” Ace! Every time! It never failed. Not once. Now, I was cautious, because I believed I shouldn’t abuse this magic, and should only use it when i really, really, really needed it. It was only years later that i’d discovered my mistake, but also discovered the (rather fluid) power of focus to make things happen.

    • Indeed. studies on the placebo, and how we think affecting outcomes fascinate me.

    • archaeopteryx1

      Carter’s Law of Prayer:

      As time goes on, a person learns to pray for only those things which will likely happen anyway.

      • I heard about this just the other day for the first time. Interesting stuff.

  2. brilliantly put

    • Thanks Mak. 🙂

  3. archaeopteryx1

    In honor of my new friend, archaeopteryx1, who got me thinking.” – I got Ark thinking once, but it proved to be only a temporary condition.

    There are some blogs on which he and I are known as “the evil A’ twins” (as I recall, “RoughSeas” coined the phrase) – originally I thought it was because our usernames both began with an “A,” but someone suggested that it may be more likely that another “A” word was involved. Good times —

    • lol. oy.

  4. Well put, well balanced piece and thanks for the quotes. Hugs:-)

    • (((hugs)) Thanks em.

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