OPINION: Imagination is important for adults too


Kids play in their little worlds, and we old folks see it as something “cute” from the past, thinking, “I’m too old for that.” We don’t see it for what it is: a serious learning experience that’s still available to us.

I used to spend hours imagining games with my brother. My favorites are when I’d be a swing-set astronaut and he the alien “Horna” (it had horns) or I a tourist trying to learn Sandman language and he a cryptic Sandman. I refuse to let go of imagination and creativity, which is imagination turned to action. These gems of life continue to teach and build us if we let them.

Creativity is an outlet. I’m a pianist, and during 2020, a lot went on in my head. I wrote songs whenever I had a strong emotion to express.

When I’m overwhelmed, this expression of every sentence in my head helps me relax. When my head is clear, I return to logic and to my typical attitude.

You can make your own music or write lyrics to a tune you already know. It doesn’t have to be a pop hit, just something fun and honest. Creativity releases all the thoughts bouncing against your forehead and building up tension. You rule your emotions and vices, not vice versa.

In rapper NF’s song “Intro III”, he says, “I thought [fear] had me in prison this whole time, but I’m the one holding the key.” For NF, writing raps is a survival technique, using imagination to get thoughts and emotions out while also bringing hope to listeners.

Imagination prepares you for the future. Albert Einstein said, “It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

You may say you “don’t have an imagination”, but if you’ve ever studied for a test, you’ve proved you do. Studying involves imagining what might be on a test and what you would have trouble with, and then practicing.

You can lay out your study area to mimic the anticipated test environment. Set any aids you won’t be allowed to use aside and put a timer on if it will be a timed test. You can even grab an extra Scantron to practice filling answers in. Voilà – you’re hard-core imagining! I saw a YouTube ad for an online game using this same idea by simulating various financial decisions people come across when first moving out.

Imagination provides an interesting way of analyzing situations and ideas. Anxiety can prevent us from thinking clearly, leading us to a flawed idea of wishful thinking. But while fear clouds reason, imagination rooted in virtue can promote it.

Fictional characters do whatever is “characteristic” for them. We don’t have control to make them do what we want, no matter how much we yell at the screen or the page. However, if I imagine walking around Minas Tirith and telling my dilemma to noble King Aragorn (my favorite example), my mind fills in an answer based on how I understand him. This creative thought process allows truth to pass from the back of my mind to the front without fear and pride clouding it.

Adulthood is not a different dimension from childhood like we thought. Imagination and creativity aren’t “gone.”

All the movies, literature, and games you love were gifted by people who understood them as part of human nature and capable of helping in every age of the world and in every phase of our lives. You’re not “too old for that”.

Use imagination to guide you on your next adventure.