The Imagination is a Powerful Thing...
...and it's something we've tended to abuse or neglect lately, I feel. And no, this wasn't inspired by yesterday's sitcom comments - it's been rolling around in my head for awhile, and it just seemed appropriate to bring it out now...
With the holidays, reruns, and various other weather-related issues, there's quite the lot of people I know (myself included) that have been watching a lot more television lately. Be it new shows they've found on other channels or an increase in movie watching, there's more television being watched.
A friend and co-worker noticed it was because of relatives visiting that the television was on a lot more in his house, and he's one that doesn't watch a lot of television either. It's a little bit of a shock to his system but it did allow a couple of his favorite motorcycle magazines pile up so that he had something to read after going through an oral surgical process the other day and his wife said the television was not to be turned on during homework time.
Since he's never home while the kids are doing homework, he didn't know the rules. He does things instead of watching television, or he reads. And he encourages that in his children, who are very well-rounded and imaginative kids.
That got me thinking about my own television habits. I usually have it on for an hour or so a night while I stitch. The kids rarely ever watch anything during the week, except for joining me for 'Mythbusters' and the occasional episode of 'Good Eats'. And Saturdays the television is sometimes on for the better part of a day, simply because of our love of Saturday morning cartoons. I use the definition of ‘morning’ loosely here because it can stretch well into the late afternoon.
I know that there are families out there that watch so much more television than we do, and that really bothers me a bit. Whatever happened to our imaginations? Kids rarely think up games to play on the playgrounds anymore - they all involve characters and villians from television shows they've seen.
What about us parents? We don't come up with new ways to entertain our children anymore, or to activities designed to spend time with our kids because it's easier to plant them in front of the television (or the game console or computer) and get other things done. Television is the ultimate electronic babysitter... and the one that stifles our creativity and imagination. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in much of a position to preach either, since I'm guilty of watching quite a bit of television myself. And don’t take this to mean that television zombies don’t have imagination, but from some of the kids that I’ve seen, they could picture a purple and yellow striped elephant with green spots on its trunk wearing a red bow tie to save their lives.
Whatever happened to reading a good book? Reading is television for your brain – the images that one’s mind comes up with for a story can engage you and make you want to actually *be* part of the story. A did that recently – she shushed me while she was reading a Lemony Snicket book, and told me later that she could really feel what was going on in the story because she could see the pictures in her mind. That’s the kind of reaction I’ve been hoping for from her for awhile. It will happen with B in just a short matter of time, I’m sure – unless it’s already there and she hasn’t recognized it for what it is yet.
I think more people need to sacrifice an hour or two of television watching to read or play a game that you make up with your kids? There's so much to be gained by exercising the imagination! You’re liable to think more creatively in all areas of your life, and a little imagination and creativity doesn’t hurt anyone. Especially when you’re trying to find a solution for something at work – letting the mind wander a little sometimes provides you with the answer that you didn’t know was there!
I watch my kids play, and I know I'm doing ok because they're constantly making up games using little stuffed animals that they have, and the situations they put them in are incredible! They don't rely on saying that the horsie is someone on television - they actually give the horsie a name and a short background. They read - they've both recently gotten into the fantasy books for their age group, and the mystery books too. One of them is writing a story about a dragon whose wings got clipped. The other will sit and devour more books and is asking more questions about things rather than taking them at face value.
How do we teach our children to use their imaginations? It's not something that we have to actually sit down and say "Today you are getting imagination lessons", although I think that would be fun to do to my kids... they'd probably love it. We could dream up new games to play, new stories to write and illustrate, new songs to sing. There's just one problem, however.
Imagination (and using it) isn't something that should be taught - it is something that just *is*, and it seems like it's been stifled. Whether that is by accident or by some twisted sort of design, I think it needs to stop, right away...
...before all we have left is PS2-playing, television watching zombies who couldn't imagine a scene from the Shire to save their lives.