Maybe I’m just old, but I remember when a certain Danish toy company’s prime offering was a generic box of interconnecting blocks. I would take those blocks and make whatever my imagination could assemble. Sure, some of the things I made bore only a vague resemblance to what I declared them to be. To me though, that was no different from the pictures I gave my grandmother to put on her fridge. I knew the members of my family weren’t stick people. They were representations, not portraits.
The same was true of my plastic-block racing cars and airplanes. They were representations, real-world hooks I used to make connections between my dreams and my reality. My imagination was just the free-flowing pipeline that brought dreams and reality together in that wonderful land called Play.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with kits that include specialized pieces to model scenes from movies and television programs. I had those too; only they were plastic models that were made more for display than for play. They taught me some very important life skills, like RTFM*, or “if you don’t open a window first you’ll get a bitch of a headache from the glue and paint fumes.”
My concern is for the future of imagination. Learning how to read and follow instructions is good. Still, someone had to imagine the project being built. Even the “fine manual” had to be imagined before it could be written.
If we’ve only learned how to read and follow, who will dream and invent? “In the Valley of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Is that where were headed, toward shortsighted inventions and half-seen plans? Or are we already there?
*RTFM = “read the fine manual,” or something like that…