Wallace Stevens, an American modernist poet, in one of his poems says “the magnificent cause of being, the imagination, the one reality in this imagined world” (2019). As we see in this piece there is a blurred boundary between the imagination and reality. In fact, they are interwoven to each other and not distinguishable easily. In this regard, the question is how much imagination could become real? Regarding Wallace Stevens, it could be said that imagination is reality and vice-versa and the first thing we need to do is just to grasp it in the current and bring it into our awareness. But it is not enough to achieve our goals; to do that we need to consider three crucial factors which help us through this process:
– Imagination is the capacity and potential which can lead us towards creating changes.
– We need a physical being to represent and actualise our imagination by being in direct touch with the world of matter through physical activity.
– Apart from the first two factors, there is an external world which surrounds us by matter, time and space. And we only have access to it through our bodies.
The key to success is the harmony and coordination between these three factors, and with the absence of each one, there will be a malfunction in the process. To be more clear, I will explain each factor separately and show how to bring them in harmony.
In The Matrix 1 (1999) written and directed by Wachowskis, there is a scene in which Neo (the main character) is going to spar in a ‘simulated reality’ with Morpheus (his mentor) to learn how to apply his Kung fu technics, which has been uploaded into his brain recently. After sparing for a while, Neo gets beaten a lot but in the last round, Morpheus looks him into the eye and says “what are you waiting for? you’re faster than this, don’t think you are, you know you are”. And then after this Neo’s fighting style gets changed. He becomes more confident and faster because of one thing, his mind believes that he is faster than this, all he needs to do is just to feel confident about it by imaging himself being faster.
I think this is the best example to show the power of imagination. As we know, they fight in a kind of simulated reality while in the external reality they are unconscious and their bodies are plugged into a computer. They kick, they punch, they sweat, they get tired, they get hurt, even they die. While their bodies are sitting on a chair in the external reality, their minds are still active somewhere else. So if the mind can be this much productive and continue living in the imagination without needing the external reality, then why would it need a body to co-exist with? Why does not it live separately?
I think to answer this question I would refer to Creative Writers and Daydreaming by Freud. In this article, he brings the work of creative writing in analogy with a child play. He declares that “might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or, rather, re-arranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him” (p. 1921). Hence, what is obvious is that to create his imaginary play a child needs his toys (objects) to play with, in other words, a child needs matters from reality to create his images. Thence, he could transform the internalised reality and project it to the external world through anthropomorphism. In order to actualise what is being imagined the other two factors are required, body and reality and without them, imagination is nothing but a phantasy which only exists in the mind.
I used to do amateur boxing for about five years and during that period we were under advanced cardio and core training. One of the training we received was that we had to learn how to rest in the ring while we were sparing. Our coach tried to develop this habit in us that ‘rest while you are on the move’. He used to keep repeating “you cannot actually rest in the middle of the fight by asking the opponent for a minute rest, there is no such a thing. You need to train your mind to put your body into the resting mode while it is moving in the ring. That is how you could regain your energy”. It was really helpful, whenever I got tired in the fight, I started dancing around, keeping my distance from the opponent and put my muscles into a resting position. He was right, we should first train our mind to get the control of our body, and then body automatically begins to cooperate.
As I mentioned, imagination is like a bridge between our inner wishes and our bodies; in other words, it is a potential which can be actualised. and for it to happen, it needs a body, a physical form by which it could represent itself into reality. As humans, our brains’ structure and function are advanced enough to help us to achieve our goals. There are neurones and neurotransmitter with synaptic connections all over the body to perceive and transmit the information from outside to inside or vice-versa. And the centre which has the control over this process is the brain; if we consider the brain as the seat of the mind, then we would have a more comprehensive understanding of how the cooperation between mind and body can result in making changes through their activities.
It is exactly like what my boxing coach tried to teach me. To develop the capacity of our mind so that it could create a habit in our body to rest while we are on the move. What I have learned from boxing was gaining the mastery over my mind and body. In fact, I learned how to bring my body and mind into harmony through the constant adjustment of the relation between them. I came to this point that there is no rest in life unless I keep moving. Moving is resting, moving is the road towards success, we need to constantly work on our imagination and let it flow into reality with the help of the body. To achieve this, we need to train both our mind and our body. Reading and learning are the best training to strengthen the mind and exercising is needed to strengthen the body. That is how one could improve the coordination between them and actualise his imagination. I also should add that by ‘moving’ I mean to progress rather than moving around and repeating the same mistakes. That is where imagination could help us. Imagination gives us new ways of looking, new angles toward the reality by which we could be creative and productive. Yet applying these skills needs some material which could be found in reality or external world.
In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud said that:“Every man must find out for himself in what particular fashion he can be saved. All kinds of different factors will operate to direct his choice. It is a question of how much real satisfaction he can expect to get from the external world, how far he is led to make himself independent of it, and, finally, how much strength he feels he has for altering the world to suit his wishes…success is never certain, for that depends on the convergence of many factors, perhaps on none more than on the capacity of the psychical constitution to adapt its function to the environment and then to exploit that environment for a yield of pleasure” (1930, p. 83–84).
I think this quote is the short version of what I have tried to say about the power of the mind and its capacity to bring alteration to the world for gaining satisfaction. Consequently, we previously mentioned about how to use the imagination and coordinate it with the body towards achieving our goals. But talking about reality is a bit more philosophical and complicated, and I am not going to go that far and end up using a lot of jargons to describe what reality is. In simple, by reality, I mean the external world which is two-folded. The first fold is the one which forms parts of our perceptions and we have access to it as cognitive subjects; while there is another fold of reality known as thing-in-itself which means the reality on its own without being recognised by a cognitive subject. We do not have anything to do with the second part, therefore, we mainly focus on the first part of it. In this case, the reality we perceive is highly influenced by our life-experiences and psychical functions and that is why it feels different from person to person. Some people find life very exciting and pleasurable and some others find it so stressful and difficult to survive. We need to consider that such variation is not only influenced by our perceptions but also it is under the influence of the second part of reality which is beyond our control, which sometimes we call it as destiny, in fact, we are not fully capable of doing anything about it but to accept it, such as death or diseases, etc.
Talking about the reality which we have access to, one could say that it is flexible and could be bent towards our will. There is no better proof than the history of humanity that shows how the man took control over nature and built its civilisation utilising the materials and resources. We are in direct touch with the world of matter and we could change its forms to create the world in the way we want. Hence, our body is a matter, on the one hand, it is in connection with an organic materialistic reality and, on the other hand, it is in touch with our non-organic (psychical) existence. Thus, Achieving a goal needs activity, both physical and psychical. Perhaps the psychical is the most important one because due to its non-materialistic characteristic it could take numerous forms and be applied on the matter with the help of the body. What we need to understand is that how to achieve enough mental capacity to increase our patience and activity to get the favourable result. Of course, we cannot have everything at once, but we could determine some goals and work on them throughout the lifetime. I remember that my boxing coach used to tell me “focus on your jab when you do a jab just think of the jab and nothing else. All of your muscles should deliver themselves into that one jab because that could be the most effective punch you would do in the moment of delivering it into the target”. Well that is it, and I think his words do not just apply for the jab, but for anything else I want to do in my life. It is exactly the same as when Neo began to imagine himself being faster.
As the last word, I would say Imagination is powerful, but it needs the convergence of other factors among which self-awareness, psychical, and physical activities are the most important ones. With self-awareness, we need to learn ourselves, we need to discover the different parts of ourselves which we have never experienced before (or we have forgotten about them). When we have a good level of self-awareness, then we know what exactly we want and what exactly we do not want, so we will invest the right amount of energy into our body to move towards our goals. We are the creator of our lives but sometimes, due to the inaccessible part of the reality, we cannot do what we want and all we need is to postpone our goals. But it does not mean that we should not try another way, it does not mean that we cannot start again. Sometimes our body is stuck in reality, but I do not believe that there is a deadlock for the imagination.
- Stevens, W. (2019). Another Weeping Woman. [online] Allpoetry.com. Available at: https://allpoetry.com/Another-Weeping-Woman [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].
- Freud, S. (1917). A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis: Creative Writers and Daydreaming. 9th ed. [ebook] Acheron Press. Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/General-Introduction-Psychoanalysis-Sigmund-Freud-ebook. [Accessed 19 Nov. 2017].
- Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and Its Discontents. S. E., 21: 57 – 146. London: Hogarth.