The news today is full of tragedy – one which was courted, invited in and danced with, the other which sprung out of the neverland of inexplicable hatred and madness. Both remind me of why a lack of imagination is the scariest monster we face and why we humans need story. Imagination is the key to seeing a place different than it is, to envisioning a better future, and to understanding our fellow travelers. Imagination is the fuel that will lift you out of the narrowness of self-focus and introduce you to the amazing world of possibility.
JK Rowling said it better than I ever could:
Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.
And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.
I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.
The best method I have for fighting back against the tragedy that sees taking a life, either your own or that of a group of innocent children, as a solution to a problem is to exercise my imagination and encourage others to do the same.
I will write stories that help to tell people there is more to this world than our own narrow thoughts. That life is precious. That answers come from unexpected places. That living in the skin of others for those few brief hours of turning pages can help us to know and love ourselves and others more.