Definition: Picturing in your mind what has never existed... and possibly never could exist in reality, or how to use things in ways that have never been done before; picturing how to prove a theory, an idea that no one else has ever had, or just: picturing in your mind how to carry out a task similar to ones others have already done, or perhaps different than how you've done something in the past. It might be something spectacular, monumental or just mundane. The common factor is: seeing it in your mind.
Our world is sometimes very difficult to understand. There is, of course, the difficulty of coming to grips with the why of certain events that take place in our lives (like trying to cope with the death of a family member), but there are also things we can touch or just look at and physical experiences that are hard to explain. Did you ever wonder as a child, Why is the sky blue? or Why do I have to sleep? Maybe even, Why do things fall down? If you're reading this on a monitor, chances are that you've asked, Why doesn't my computer boot up? at least once! Perhaps you've even E-mailed me about it.
The main point of this essay is the importance of using our imagination, in all stages of life, no matter who we are or what we do. If you don't already believe that, hopefully this essay will convince you. We'll begin with a discussion of science, but please do not stop reading just because you happen to have no interest in that topic. The emphasis will shift soon enough.
You may think that science is all about collecting and analyzing data, probing things then describing what's been learned as a list of facts, but that's only partly true. Although having lots of data about something you want to study can be very helpful, before you can come to any meaningful conclusions (such as answering that seemingly simple question about the color of the sky, or arriving at a law of nature that will always be true; at least under the same set of conditions), you need to have an idea (often, many of them) of how one might be able to prove something! Even though there's much logic involved in carrying out an experiment, one's imagination is often a key factor in devising an experiment that's truly useful!
Sometimes a fantastic discovery might come about through just plain "dumb luck" or what has also been called: serendipity; which I'd define as: Being both fortunate and intelligent enough to make a significant discovery by accident. But for the most part, it does take at least a bit of imagination in order to see the usefulness of such events.
So, scientists often need to use their imagination in order to make significant progress. It should be obvious that most works of art, fiction stories, animated ('cartoon') characters and so forth would be impossible without imagination. Such examples show that imagination can at times be closely related to creativity. I believe it was Walt Disney who coined the term imagineering, and though he very successfully applied it in the entertainment of others, it could just as well describe the work of many engineers and technicians who've built and continue to maintain many of the the 'inventions' used by the present world's technological societies. Consider all the machines in your life: cars, planes, radios, televisions, cell phones, computers, refrigerators, microwave ovens and so many others, and the fact that each of them will eventually fail in some way. And if you own one of them, you'll most likely ask if it can be repaired. Some engineer or technician either before a failure or afterwards, will need to use their imagination in developing a plan to determine what 'went wrong' with your machine (often called troubleshooting) so they can fix it; at least that's what they should do. Unfortunately, due to time constraints or lack of knowledge and/or experience, some large component is often simply replaced rather than repaired. Depending upon the actual problem and if you simply want your item to work again or really want to know why it failed, it will take some imagination to come up with various theories and then testing those theories in an attempt to prove how a machine actually failed. Some companies are more committed than others to trying to figure out the cause of failures, and keep track of those occurrences. When lives are affected or a death takes place (as in the case of plane crashes), both the how and the why should be answered before anyone is allowed to use that machine again.
I'm guessing a few of you were already thinking from the start, Yes, imagination was rather important for someone like Galileo or Newton if not moreso for an Edison, and I suppose it still is for any scientist or inventor today. Well, I hope you now see that technicians (at least those who must answer the 'how and why' questions honestly) who assist in the maintenance of say, jet aircraft, or simply repair our rather complex machines, also need an imagination. But perhaps you're asking, What's that got to do with me? I don't do any of those things; I'm not an artist nor a science-fiction writer either!
Well, unless you've got some kind of disease or injury to your brain, I think everyone can apply their imagination in some useful way in their lives. It's my hope that I can teach you something about using your own imagination with my little journey into a world where people are born with two sets of eyes! Furthermore, I believe that imagination goes hand-in-hand with abstract thought and reasoning, and has a lot to do with what's best about being human. As it's been said, and I certainly agree: "a mind is a terrible thing to waste," and it's quite sad to see many who seem to be doing just that.
I'm sure many will disagree with my own conclusions about reality, but still believe what I have to share here will be useful to you in some way. If you have an interest in idioms, this should definitley be fun for you! (I can even imagine this may be a useful method in teaching about idioms in a language or linguistics course.)
Sometimes while taking a shower or standing in line, I've asked myself What if? to amuse my mind. At other times, I employ this method, not just for fun, but to prove a point. In Geometry, one can often prove some postulate by first assuming the opposite to be true, and then showing that assumption is false. Though dreaming about other worlds does not necessarily lead to any kind of logical proof, I still believe this method might help you in dealing with the perplexities of life; with questions you may have about Why? things are the way they are! These are just some of the thoughts I've been kicking around in my own mind for years, and felt a need to finally share them as an example of how you too could use your own imagination.
On several occasions I've tried to imagine what the world would be like if we all had two sets of eyes. The proverbial phrase, He's got eyes in the back of his head indicates where the best place would be for an extra set of eyes on humans. Of course, in a world where this were true, that phrase itself would become just as laughable as hearing someone exclaim in our own, He's got eyes in the front of his head! And I'm sure that, Well, duh! or something like it would still be an appropriate response. Not only would our phrase about eyes in the back of your head be eliminated, but the meaning of the word back itself would be greatly reduced. It would lose every sense of reference to a blind spot, and would simply mean that side of our bodies without a nose or mouth; something like your other front.
In order to make full use of this other set of eyes, we would certainly have far less hair on our heads than we do now. Barbers might become a luxury, since most of us could easily turn around in front of the mirror (or whatever we'd call moving our 'side with a nose' opposite to something) and cut our own patch of hair mostly on top. Or perhaps not. After all, few of us take the time to learn how to do such things correctly, and trying to be your own barber might still result in a very bad hair day for those who care about such things.
People must often move away from, or towards, a particular situation or object they're observing, as soon as possible. Fleeing from danger, or running to help someone are obvious examples. If we could view things from both our front and the other front, we'd obviously need to have legs that could be used to walk and run in two different directions! (Remember, this is my alternate world, so go imagine your own if you don't like it.) Therefore, shoe sizes would almost double, since we'd also have two sets of toes on each foot which would be shaped something like this: _|_ (the upright line being one of our legs; basically with almost two feet per leg growing opposite to each other). And if those feet couldn't be made to slide both sets of toes into our shoes at once, we'd simply have to use some kind of strap-on sandals instead. There might not be such a thing as our present day heel, both literally and figuratively! Then again, we'd still need a hard bone at the bottom-center of our feet, so maybe we'd call that a heel instead.
Now that you've had some time to think about it, I'd like to point out that although the concept of moving forward (or whatever else it might be called) in time would still exist, a phrase you may have heard in our world, looking forward to the future, couldn't have the same kind of emphasis that it does in our own! And what would moving backwards mean? How would this affect our concepts of the past?
Although cars would not be required to have two forwards, for most people, parking would definitely be a lot easier to handle. Though rear view mirrors wouldn't exist, we could have some kind of mirror for those who were literally blind in both of their other set of eyes! Even with the advantages of two sets of eyes, I'll bet some people would still back their car out of a driveway or turn out of a parking space without looking for oncoming traffic. Perhaps they'd be looking at both the Smith's and the Jones's houses at the same time!
Of course, with all of these extra eyes, optometrists would have twice the work. We'd obviously have much less chance of going completely blind, and people would feel sad for those with only three, and especially just one set of eyes! Would those who need to wear glasses, be able to see perfectly out of their other set of eyes? If not, two sets of glasses just wouldn't do; especially without another nose and only two ears. We'd have to come up with one complete assembly with four lenses and straps (or stretchable frames) so we could put them over our heads. [Say, isn't that amazing how a human being can think of ways to adapt to a reality that doesn't even exist?]
If you haven't already done so, think of all the phrases and idioms that relate to our bodies. Anything using the word back might have a very different meaning; if it even existed in this world of humans with four eyes. You might happen to hear a person yell, Hey eight (or six) eyes! But you'd never read about such things as, I've got your back, Watch my back, I'll protect his backsides and a slew of others. Sneak up behind him couldn't exist! And you'd need to come up with a completely different way of wording a favorite idiom of many: He stabbed me in the back!
The idiom, cover my rear, brings up an interesting question: How does the concept of not being able to see behind us, affect the words we often use for our, well, let's just say rear end? Obviously, a whole category of words and phrases for a certain part of our anatomy wouldn't exist in this other world.
This world of two views into life around us would very certainly lead everyone into wishing they could always do two things at once. You see in some cases, we'd actually be able to do so! You could carry on a face-to-face (that's an interesting phrase!) conversation with your neighbor and still be able to literally keep an eye on your kids (from your other front) at the same time. This concept of having two views of our world, would not only make it possible for the linguistic study of many more idioms, but also affect our basic philosophical concepts and some major biological issues.
What would it feel like trying to cope with all the thoughts and distractions that would be flooding our minds? Could any of us actually cope with all the extra data another set of eyes would be feeding into our brains? If what you hear can often be distracting when simply trying to read a book or watch a movie, imagine trying to study in the library or especially sit in a theater or at a ball game, where everyone in front of you was staring back at you?! I'm not at all sure what kind of changes would have to take place in our brains to handle the information from four eyes, but as far as situations such as theaters, orchestra halls or sports games, we'd most likely enact laws that would delight hat manufacturers! Perhaps if you were going to enjoy a football game in person, you be required to wear a hat or some kind of 'blinders' over your eyes not facing the event!
Then again, maybe our world's whole concept of feeling odd about having someone stare at us would be altogether different in this one! What would be the point of having two sets of eyes if we had to cover them in most public places? One thing I know for sure: You'd never have to worry about people leering or acting funny directly behind your back! (Like kids who might hold up some fingers behind your head when a friend is taking group photos.)
There's obviously much more we could say about a world like this, and maybe you'll be able to imagine some other fantastically odd things about it on your own. But what were my conclusions about such a world? Or, more accurately: How did I apply these thoughts to my own life?
This essay on imagination was not simply to have some fun, nor just a linguistic exercise in the use of idioms. I'd like you to use it as a tool to imagine what life on earth might be like if it were vastly different than it is now! And then decide for yourself, in a reasonable manner, if it really could be any better than how it was first created. You can, of course, apply imagination to just your own life too! I don't mean simply dreaming about a life with a better job, more money, etc. though! Ask yourself, as Pascal asked in his day: "What would your life be like as a Believer?" Why did I ask that? Because my answer for why we do not have two sets of eyes is based upon the assumption that God exists.
My first thoughts on why we do not have eyes in the back of ours heads were: Because God created us to want to be with others. And once sin and death entered the world, our weaknesses were used to cause us to depend upon others! We're neither the largest nor strongest creatures of His creation, and having only one set of eyes made it all that much more dangerous to attempt to live alone; or even with just one other person! I'm sure more could be said about this, but we need to realize that an imaginary world certainly doesn't require a complete explanation for why it does not exist.
What if all of us were exactly like animals? (Why is it that animals are seemingly 'bad characters' in phrases such as, "He's acting like an animal"? Well, the emphasis isn't supposed to be on what animals are like as much as the fact that a particular person is not living as he should: as a human being! But let's move on.) If we were all animals, there'd be no concept of morality, and no need for laws. Why? Because we'd simply do what we were programmed to do! Neither abstract thought nor imagination would exist for us! In essence, you might just as well have a world full of robots; and I certainly don't mean the kind you find in science fiction, where more often than not they're portrayed as being like humans rather than machines. As a side note: Isn't it interesting how as humans we try to see something in animals (or even things) as being human! Again, being a Christian, I'd conclude that God did not want a world full of beings that had to function exactly as He had programmed them to. Why? Because God wants all of us to love Him! Hopefully you're human enough to know that love cannot be forced from a person.
I hope that you'll take the necessary time to consider more than just the question of God's existence. For example: Is this present world just as He created it, or the result of sin? And if sin does exist, perhaps God really did send His Son, Jesus, the Messiah, as the means of our salvation! When you commit yourself (turn your life over) to the LORD, asking Him to save you from sin, then you'll truly love Him for providing that way of salvation.
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Last Update: October 23, 2010.
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