Having imagination is an intellectual gift that few consider necessary to excel. Some think that you are just born with it and that there is no need for exercise. We have become “calculators rather than poets, technocrats rather than contemplators”. As young people, we have to be able to form the habit of finding analogies in the visible for the invisible; since it is common to lose hope when we don’t see things with our own eyes and just rely on faith. As Peter Kreeft, author and professor at Boston College, said: “There is more of a difference between a single man becoming a married man than a shoeless man having shoes”.
It is quite common, especially in our times, to lose interest in exercising our imagination because of the abundant technology and entertainment there is. Of course, technology has its pros in so many ways, but are we paying attention to the content we permit our eyes to see or our ears to hear? Does this content reach what indeed is good, true, or beautiful?
There is a need for the pursuit of the good, the true, and beautiful. Each one is essential to each other’s perfection. It is quite challenging to get a good read started because I may have something else within immediate reach that I would instead do. Insofar as technology goes, we could make the best use out of it by being conscious that what we see or hear pairs with our goals.
We can see this through the works of Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, for example. At the core of their vision lies their quest to explore transcendence and question good and evil. They used stories that tend to answer questions about how we should live our lives. To have a good imagination, one must have good reason and vice versa. If not, as Tolkien says: imagination turns into morbid delusion. The beauty of having reason and imagination is that it connects us with the transcendence each action has in our lives.
For example, the purest form of imagination to me is love. Why? Well, because it is the common thing everybody strives for and everyone can relate too. Also, it is something that lies in your imagination because, indeed, it is via your heart. The person is someone that transcends and goes beyond because of their mystery and not something I can understand by rational deductions. Our imagination gives us the ability to paint a picture of someone we cannot truly comprehend by the first instance, that is why finding interest in things that are good, true, and beautiful unifies. For example, a shared interest in art, music, and literature can give you a deeper meaning of the mystery that person has. Music lets us hear “nature transformed into love” as Nietzsche says.
Victor Frankl describes the love he feels for his beloved in the concentration camp. It does not matter that she is not with him, but because of his interior fullness and reasoning, he knows that he is still in love. Frankl describes it in a literal sense, but the beauty of imagination is that multiple writers use it to express these intangible feelings to relatable analogies that help us understand the truth.
In fact, the imagination that Victor Frankl had was the only thing that kept him alive. Because of this power he was able to continue striving for his purpose of life although he couldn ́t physically see it. As he says in his most famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, it was in the group prayers when they grew closer together. His imagination led him to play a significant role in society, setting an example of purpose and inner strength.
To find interest in books, art, music, and engage in conversations that may challenge you, but genuinely enrich you in so many ways is part of the exercise this intellectual muscle requires only to give you so much more in return. The power of imagination is so compelling, even in an unconscious manner, most of the time, that is why it must be towards the good, the true and the beautiful to see people as a window to transcendence and not just mere acquaintances.
Published: November 6, 2019
Written by Andrea Gutierrez, a New York Headquarters intern from Mexico
Ready to get your imagination going after reading Andrea’s piece? WYA has an official book and film list to get you started! Explore works about the human condition through a curated list made especially for our members.