O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
Robert Burns: To a Louse
“That’s my grandma!” proclaimed my three-year old granddaughter, pointing at the Wicked Witch on the stage.
“Oh no, it isn’t…”
“Oh yes, it is!”
“Shhh…” said her parents.
“Well, it looks like my grandma…” insisted Hollie, loudly enough to be heard by half the theatre.
I had not been at the pantomime… on stage or off… but every other member of her extended family took great delight in telling me about the event on New Year’s Day. The consensus seemed to be that it was the hooded cloak that had done it… because of the one I had worn when I had dressed up for Hollie‘s birthday. I had, on that occasion, done my best to match her dressing-up-princess clothes, just to make her smile. It had seemed, at the time, as if she hadn’t even noticed.
Apparently, though, she had… although she had not seen a princess, but a wicked witch… and was intent on informing the whole theatre of the resemblance.
Hollie has, it seems, no problem with a grandma who is a wicked witch. Or a horse. Or, indeed, a grampire… (a friendlier version of the classic gothic monster, who feeds on cuddles, not blood.)
So I spent much of the afternoon on New Year’s Day on duty as a hybrid Fairy God-ninja, stomping on, and disposing of, the monsters that had invaded the playroom; wielding my magic wand like a light sabre, with a ‘Bibbity, bobbity, BOO!’. The rest, I spent dead on the kitchen floor, much to my granddaughter’s delight, as I had eaten the poisoned apple, and was waiting to be brought back to life by
her Prince Charming’s kisses.
The imagination of a child can make you into anything it can envisage… and we respond to their imaginings by becoming, for a moment in play, whatever they can see. And that is delightful.
It occured to me, though, that we adults do it too, either in play, or… not. Sometimes, it turns to the Dark Side. And by that I am not referring to the fact that my elder son has assigned the Darth Vader theme as ‘my’ ring tone when I phone him… though it does raise some interesting questions about his image of me…
I started thinking of the fantasies, both positive and negative, that we formulate and build around ourselves and others. Especially when a quote that Stuart had used came up in conversation:
‘Our own journey is entirely imaginary: that is its strength.’
– Louis Ferdinand Celine.
Such imaginings can be hugely positive. Techniques such as creative visualisation can be used to great effect for healing and transformation, and living ‘as if’ can be a way to build confidence, self-belief, becoming a concrete step towards the realisation of our dreams and goals. We use a similar method in the guided journeys of the Silent Eye and its effects can be both profound and revealing, opening the doors to a wider understanding of ourselves and our world.
Our imaginings can be negative too, though, and so many of our bad habits and apparent failures are enmeshed in the image of our own abilities or perceived lack of them. “I can’t” is often justified with a creative flair that would have left Shakespeare green with envy. Low self-esteem can create a self-perpetuating feedback loop, infinitely reflecting itself and drawing its strength from the negative image we have created for and of ourselves, based upon what life, experience and those around us appear to tell us, often with devastating effect.
We use our imagination when we form our opinions of others too, extrapolating and collating fact, assumption and belief… not always accurately…until we feel we have a clear picture. The reality of that person may be very far from our imaginings… but once we have crafted that image, of ourself or of another, and invested our emotions in it, the image becomes very difficult to change. And the furter away from the reality of a person that image truly is, the more likely it becomes that our unconscious expectations of them are doomed to disappointment.
Imagination is a powerful thing and although it can and will create beauty, it can be a stubborn and troublesome beast too.
Children are wonderful teachers. They see the world both as it is, and as it could be and, when we leave our image of adulthood behind and join them in their games, we are gifted a remembered glimpse of what we were, what we still are deep inside… and what we too could be.