by Jeffrey J. Michaels
Imagination: A gift shared
There are times I pine for the world that was. A strange nostalgia sweeps over me and I do not understand the why of it all. I feel deeply that I should be living in another age, another part of the world, or as a completely different personality. Past life memories? Perhaps.
Perhaps it is due to the story I just read, the one that compelled me to remain awake deep into the early morning hours despite a tiring day. I ignored my chores and canceled my plans to get out and exercise. Okay, it doesn’t have to be that compelling to get me to ignore exercise or delay taking the garbage out, but you get my point. You have been there before. I hope.
These modern days, it is not so common a thing to be captivated by mere words. The images conjured from ink and paper. The weaving of phrases and rhythmic parsing of paragraphs into a swelling tale of emotional risk and reward. The catch in one’s throat when realizing, in the final pages, where the story leads. Have you wept at the conclusion of a book? While reading, have you laughed out loud in the midst of strangers on a train or plane? Have you felt joy and fear for a character that exists only in images – spells cast through language and into your thoughts…through imagination?
Are We Alone?
Do other creatures tell stories to one another? I have found no evidence of this, and the general conclusion is that there is no such phenomenon clearly attributable to cetaceans or primates beyond Homo sapiens. This does not rule it out, of course. It could be that the stories they tell are incomprehensible to humanity, that we simply do not perceive their manner. Or perhaps the noble silverback gorillas or ocean-going dolphins do not deem us worthy audiences to learn of their great histories or deep genetic memories.
Do other creatures even have imagination? Is this a singular gift we alone, we Homo sapiens, we storytellers, have been allowed through a creator or by evolutionary action? Can you imagine a life on earth without being able to use your imagination? A life with no stories, no books, no songs, or no cinema with its fantastic, flickering images holding visual memories from the dawn of photography and film? Can you pause for a moment and IMAGINE how blessed we actually are to possess this sense, this perceptive capability?
A Generous Passion
Writers and storytellers create entire worlds, entire societies, entire scenarios, dramatic and comedic, that seek and invite others to enter within and gain experiences they may never have. Space travel, time travel, global travel, emotional travel, journeys through figurative and literal landscapes that are mirrors of our own reality. Then we proceed to step out and share our words with the rest of our species, to give back and spread our stories in our communities, local and global.
We share our personal gifts of perception and emotion for a variety of reasons, true. Some for profit, some for fame, some for posterity. But each crafter of a tale, each weaver of words, each spell caster of fictional events and historical occurrences is ultimately a generous gift giver to our often anonymous readers who bear witness to the imagined activities we record.
As such, we authors stand in a long line of tribal odd-fellows. Like shamans, or medicine men and women, we are the strange member of the community who stays awake and watches the skies and observes the stars. We are the moon gazers who offer myth and legend to explain and carry lessons for the benefit of the whole village, for the survival of the coming generations, perhaps, but also to pass the time around the fires, whether wood, coal, or electronic.
A United Community
No matter what form the light that keeps the dark away, the stories impel the tribe to remain close together. We are stronger together. Or they may tell us of those who went off on their own, whether by choice or by tragic accident, separated from their familiar surroundings and friends, and how they used their bravery and wits to not only survive, but flourish and ultimately return to the world.
The teller of the tale is completed by those who are practical, who accomplish the tasks that allow for daily life to continue. The hearers of the tales perpetuate the current societies by building houses, farming foods we consume, and transporting goods for the tribe to enjoy. They are the audience, the ones who need and desire the words we weave. We are united by the images conjured and perceived.
And when we ourselves are touched by a story, a book or film, we feel that rush of jealousy, admiration, wonder, and desire to increase our own ability. We reach for the goal of having a similar effect on others. As authors and creatives, we may strive for new, superior techniques that separate our tale from the past and make us unique, yet we are the culmination of our art only for the generation we exist within. The ones that follow, those that may read our words long after we have exited the planet, will build on the works and styles and patterns, and craft their own, birthing relatable tales for the society they live in. Just as we do. Just as our predecessors have done.
A Universal Connection
We are storytellers, and we are connected to the universe by the state of imagination, that strange gift of creative energy. We can say thank you to those who went before us, those we know of and those we know existed but who remain forever anonymous in the mists of wood-fire smoke and time. And we can look forward, imagining and encouraging those who will take up the torch after we’re gone, the story-tellers of the future who will give back to their communities with the words they weave, who will guide and entertain and educate those future generations we will never know.
Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. His describes his book A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements. He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as The Mystical Histories. It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories. In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant. He does not like to talk about his award winning horror story. www.jeffreyjmichaels.com