Posts Tagged ‘imagination’


I watched the stream ; its easy glide before my eyes
Did mesmerise my soul and grant it peace.
And then, imagination grasped the water’s rise
And sent it wand’ring, lazy, without cease.
And still my pupils followed where it went,
Absorbed by magic, held in lucid flow,
So eager to anticipate what’s meant
By whirls and eddies that glitter so.
But is there good to take, in orb or mind,
By lifting Nature from her proper ways?
Those waters, past, may ne’er be set behind
In proper place, their mission re-assigned.
Leave brooks to windle on their earthy beds,
For Fancy sleeps in well-appointed heads!

Jamie MacNab 2012

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In a sense, everything is history.  For example, when I look at an object such as my computer screen, I am aware that I see it not as it is but as it was a fraction of a second ago ; this is because it takes a definite length of time for it to be neurologically processed and to be presented to conscious awareness.  When we move away from that kind of example towards more everyday awarenesses, to thinking about what to have for breakfast for example, things get even more historical ; if I decide on cornflakes, then where does my liking of them come from if not from pleasant memories of breakfasts past?

In a sense, then, while the arrow of time is always pointing forward, our sense perceptions of the world are always pointing backward.  It is as if Nature made us to feel more comfortable to look at the past rather than the future.

And in a sense, everything is spiritual.  For, even though I can persuade myself that I am looking at a material thing as I gaze at the computer screen, the moment I start to think about it, it becomes entirely a phenomenon of consciousness ; i.e., not material at all but spiritual.

These thoughts and others like them were crossing my mind as I enjoyed reading the history of the events following the Norman conquest, from the time of King William himself to King John.  I was conscious of enjoying that period of history as a purely spiritual pleasure ; for there is no way I could possibly enjoy it as a sensory one.  I might have imagined what it is like to be clad in heavy chain mail on the Sussex Downs ; I might have imagined what the weight of a swinging sword or mace might feel like ; I might have imagined the pain of taking an arrow-hit in the eye.  But there is no way that I can experience these things that are long in the past and beyond hope (or fear) of repetition.

“How wonderful life must be for the historian, I thought, living one’s subject entirely through one’s imagination!”

And imagination is but one short step back from its alluring cousin, fantasy.  “How comforting it would be,” I thought, “If the nobler Anglo-Saxons had never allowed themselves to become embroiled with those ghastly Normans and French!”

But then, history is history, as they say, and the events cannot be realistically imagined as being different from what they actually were.  All ‘what if’ scenarios are mere fantasy.  Perhaps that is why so many students of history see their subject as elaborate lists of dates, names and deeds ; nice and safe lists with little margin for error.  But surely this is not history at all ; it is  little more than chronology.

So, perhaps that is why they also like to have each item in the list tagged with the opinion of their teacher ; in the belief that this somehow adds veracity to the content of the list.  But such opinions are so often conditioned by the political opinions of the teacher, which always contaminate history with modern ideas alien to the age being studied.

Of course, history is bound to contain large amounts of historians’ opinion, but I do not think that this is what it is really about.  For, surely, no subject is worthy of study unless the student is in some way in love with the subject being studied.  And what is being studied in ‘History’?  it has to be simply people.  So the first requirement of an historian is to love people and, from that, to desire to know what they did and why they did it.  The ‘what’ is easy enough ; that is the bare menu.  But the ‘why’ is where the recipe is ; it leads to the kitchen where the tale of entire nations and civilisations is cooked up.

History is a tale with many story-lines, therefore with as many aims ; but apparently without an over-arching plot.  In 1066 nobody in England had the faintest suspicion of a Hanoverian monarch.  History has many chronologists but not an all-knowing author.

And yet there are patterns in history, which suggests something about human nature.  And the patterns do not lead to mere repetition of events, which suggests that human nature is changing.  For example, in general, the farther back we go, the more violent are the methods of government ; and this suggests that we are moving in a direction where force as a method is giving way to persuasion.  And violence, of course, is the outcome of ways of seeing the world and of ways of thinking.
Therefore, it seems to me that history is the tale of the evolution of human consciousness.  It is a spiritual tale.

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People talk about space as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.  But is it?

When one looks into the night sky, one is aware of a multitude of points of light.  Because were are able to separate these points of light into separate objects, we say there are spaces between them.  We go further ; we say that we can see the spaces.

But, suppose there were no stars in the sky?  Take them all away, and what would one see?  Nothing.

It seems that space is not an object that can be seen, heard, felt, smelt or tasted.

So, what is it?   It is something we infer by virtue of it’s being unavailable to our senses.   It is surely a product of our imagination.

Likewise for those unsensed things that people believe exist in space – atoms, electrons, quarks, fields of this and that.  All are products of human imagination – and often of highly trained imagination.

But is space, and all the invisibles that are in it, real?  I see no reason why not, although our understanding of them might need adjusting in the light of future disciplined imaginings.

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Creativity is all the rage.  We’re all supposed to be creative.  Our State-directed education system (such as it is) is based on creativity.  Creative Marxism – can you imagine such a thing?  Can you imagine a determinist theory in which all things happen because they must happen – and yet there is room for creativity, for spontaneity.  Our politicians actually imagine this and believe it, too ; and they want us to believe it, as well.

I have an example of how our children are directed to be creative.  A few months back, I was speaking to the mother of a two-year-old.  She had called at the nursery to collect the little girl, who was busy colouring in a picture of some policemen, nurses and firemen.  She saw that the child had given the policemen some very fetching pink uniforms.  Well, one was pink and the other green.  The girl’s teacher was standing proudly by.  When the mother dared to advise her child that policemen actually wear deep blue uniforms, the teacher intervened to assert that nobody ought to ‘interfere with the child’s creativity’ ; she was quite insistent on this point.

So, it seems that, in our modern education system, ‘creativity’ takes precedence over reality.  It’s imagination that counts for all, and observation counts for nothing.

Now, I’m all in favour of imagination.  How is it possible to make the world a better place unless one can imagine a better place?  How can you make a better mouse-trap unless you can first imagine a better mouse-trap?  But, surely, you cannot imagine a better mouse-trap until you have a good understanding of existing mouse-traps.

This little girl and her pink policeman exemplifies what is so wrong about the way our society has been drifting for many years now ; and especially in the last thirteen years or so.  And that drifting has occurred not only in education but in politics, too.  We are governed by people who are strong in imagination but weak in observation.  They have their concept of a perfect world for tomorrow but little understanding of the world of today or of yesterday.  As a result, they are creating mere chaos.

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