…about the future of imagination

27 December 2011

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.
4-year-old boy painting Revell model

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?

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*RTFM = “read the fine manual,” or something like that…

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…about cell phone etiquette

29 October 2011

There’s nothing like a cell phone to make a self-absorbed person behave as if it really is all about him (or her, as the case may be).

Cell phone beside cup of coffeeThe guy in the coffee shop this morning was a walking illustration for self-image-defeating stereotypes. First off, he was rather short, which is always a struggle for men. For whatever reason, height equals power in the minds of most people, but especially in the minds of men who perceive themselves as short.

Add to this that, in spite of his use of the shaved-head approach to denying a receding hairline, said hairline’s notable retreat was obvious. Baldness seems to be an emasculating condition for men as well, although I’ve never understood why. I mean, my argument is that apes have lots of hair, Neanderthals have less hair, most people have even less hair (I do know some exceptions), and I have less hair than most people. Sounds like evolution to me! But I digress…

The guy received a phone call while he was in the line for his double-double, and his phone manner was so loud and brash that he drew the attention of nearly everyone in the shop. I would propose that this is exactly what he wanted to do, to convince us that he was a big shot. From a glance around the room, I’d say that my fellow patrons and I shared roughly the same thought: “Who is this loudmouth and what will it take for him to go away?”

Seriously, I don’t know why guys feel the need to posture in a room full of strangers. He had a female companion, so perhaps he was just showing-off for her benefit. I have to ask: ladies, does that shit really work on you? For her part, she just looked relieved when she was able to get him outside, away from the Looks of Death coming from not-quite-awake caffeine consumers.

I will grant that the cell phone may be no more than an accomplice in this guy’s criminal lack of good manners. It just seems to me that this little device has the ability to bring out some very undesirable behaviour. It isn’t difficult when traveling on public transit, for instance, to hear people talking about matters for which they should be seeing a therapist. The TV soap operas are suffering because we don’t need them to live vicariously through others – we can do that in a grocery store line-up.

I feel that my worst offense is that I let my cell phone manage my time and focus. I’m not talking about the cool apps that tell me when I have meetings. No, it has gone way beyond that level of control. If my cell phone rings or receives a text message, I reach for it. If my phone is on, I give it some of my attention because it might ring. If it is off, I secretly wonder if I am missing important calls. Please tell me I’m not the only one doing this!

We need to communicate. It’s the way we’re wired. As with so many other things, the tricky bits are the “when” and the “how.”


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