What do you do with an imagination?
We all use ours. Every day of our lives. It is exercised in some fashion or another in almost every single thing that we do.
But what do you do when your imagination is the most exercised muscle you have? What do you do with that? Some would fire off that you'd be a painter or a composer. But creating is entirely different than imagining.
Creating is a different set of muscles in the same family, and the practice for exercising it is more particular (and much harder!) so no. Not creating. The kind of imagination I'm talking about is nothing but frustrating if you try to create.
I know, because I've tried. I can read a passage in a book and see it fully realized, in every detail down to the nuance of weather and grit between toes. The feel of skin and fabric and the sweat or chill, the heat from the horses or speed of the car, the smell of the salt tang. I can immerse myself into the scene and forget where I am in this world. I can do this so quickly, so easily, so seamlessly, that I consider it an actual gift. An ability. There are millions like me out there - it is nothing special - but all the same, it is still a gift.
So bringing it back around to this world - when I imagine a place I've read and want to re-create it in art? I learned to draw (a little) and paint (a little more) and realized that I had none of the patience or drive to create. I do not have the patience to study the decades that I need to get the technical skills I'd want to bring my imaginations to life. As I said, imagining is nothing remotely resembling creating. Creating is hard work. Impossible work. Imagining is like slipping into warm water and floating. Easy as breathing. I can travel, have traveled, all across the universe. Down into quantum flux, out beyond the galaxies, with leviathans of the deep. I have been Knights and Ladies, vermin, dragons, murderers, heros, friends, warriors, lovers, victims, perpetrators, criminals, animals, bystanders, magicians, witches, fairies, angels, demons. I have lived so many lives and so many adventures.
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." – Jojen Reed
What to do with all that? I can conjure up anything. But it remains a fruitless pastime, enriching no one but myself. It is endlessly frustrating to me that my single aptitude is non-productive.
I read this favorite quote of mine from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn - and I am there. I am sitting with Simon and Binabik, wary and cautious of the Dimmerskog like they are, feeling the cold and biting wind....
“They reached the eastern outskirts of the Dimmerskog on the afternoon of the next day. Although the forest was covered in a thick blanket of white snow, it nevertheless seemed, as Binabik had named it, a place of shadows. The company did not pass beneath its eaves, and might have chosen not to even had their path lain that way, so thick with foreboding was the wood’s atmosphere. The trees, despite their size—and some of them were huge indeed—seemed dwarfish and twisted, as though they squirmed bitterly beneath their burden of needled branches and snow. The open spaces between the contorted trunks seemed to bend away crazily like tunnels dug by some huge and drunken mole, leading at last to dangerous, secretive depths. Passing in near silence, his horse’s hooves crunching softly in the snow, Simon imagined following the gaping pathways into the bark-pillared, white-roofed halls of Dimmerskog, coming at last to—who could guess? Perhaps to the dark, malicious heart of the forest, a place where the trees breathed together and passed endless rumors with the scaly rub of branch on branch, or the malicious exhalation of wind through twigs and frozen leaves. They camped that night in the open again, even though the Dimmerskog crouched only a short distance away like a sleeping animal. None of them wanted to spend a night beneath the forest’s branches—especially Sludig, who had been raised on stories of the ghastly things that stalked the wood’s pale corridors. The Sithi did not seem to care, but Jiriki spent part of the evening oiling his dark witchwood sword. Again the company huddled around a naked fire, and the east wind razored past them all the long evening, sending great powdery spouts of snow whirling all around, and sporting among the Dimmerskog’s upper reaches. When they lay down that night to sleep it was to the sound of the forest creaking, and the wind-ridden branches sawing one against the other.”
― Tad Williams, The Dragonbone Chair
And I can picture it so crisp, so vivid in my mind every time. I want to paint or, simply to revel in the act of bringing my visual imaginings to life. But what is that?! It isn't even my own imaginings. It's Tad Williams'. It seems so fraudulent. But I cannot create.
Even photography to me, which is a close and dear love of my heart, is still just a mockery of something else. A capture of someone else's (or nature's) creation. I cannot respect it as much as creation, no matter how much I must practice it.
So these are the things which tear at the corners of my mind while the quiet creeps in every day. What do I do with my gifts? What can I leave behind of substance? My passions are aping other people's and things qualities. It's a sham.
I didn't even begin to maunder about my other capacity, which is learning. I think I love to learn more than anything else. New things of any and all kind pique my interest and I am endlessly curious. I am genuinely curious, too. I care to learn, I love to learn. Besides the great and hedonistic passions of sex and eating and sleep, learning is something I alight to faster than a moth to flame. Presented with something unknown and fresh, I dive headlong with abandon and learn as much as I want.
Sometimes this allows me to discover a new passion and through my life it has also allowed me to continue to learn about the things that I am most interested in, so I can say, I suppose, that I am wielder of great knowledge about some things.
But all for naught! I have done nothing besides gather and hoard my own knowledge for myself. Learning is one of my life's greatest pleasures of all time, but I do it selfishly, because it feels wonderful.
This gnawing ache of an outlet is assuaged by some things, sometimes. Photography helps. Blogging helps. But these are just shadows of authentic endeavors, and we all know it.
I consume and consume and consume and I am wanting something and unsure what, so just taking everything in to fill the void. But what does it serve? Maybe someday, I will find out.
But I wish I knew now.