Last night my husband and I wandered through the Chadstone Shopping Centre. It’s touted to be the largest shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere and seems to be getting bigger every year judging by the amount of super deluxe high-end shops like Gucci, Prada and Burberry proliferating there.
We spent over one hour in the only bookstore (notice how these are dying off and yet there’s no end to the Luis Vuitton and Tiffany shops that seem to replace them?) and I decided to go out and sit on the lounges to people-watch while my husband purchased his books. As I’ve deleted all social media apps off my phone, I’m now left to my own devices (pardon the pun) to observe the world and people around me.
I looked above me and saw the architecturally designed glass undulating roofscape with the reflections of the lights of the shop windows and it looked pretty. However, there was a massive light-box directly above me. Although I couldn’t see the image of what it was advertising, in my mind’s eye, I assumed it would be some sultry pouty model with long fingernails clutching her brown Luis Vuitton bag.
Regardless, my mind started to imagine all sorts of horrors.
What if that lightbox fell on my head?
Would it hack me in half?
Would the top half of my body crawl away because the bottom half was pinned down? (I’ve been watching far too many shows about zombies).
Could I survive this disaster? Or, could I make an escape a la Indiana Jones style at the last minute?
I tried to move off the couch but as these couches are designed for aesthetic and not function, it’s depth meant I had to pull myself off it with great difficulty. My recent weight gain from my holiday in Hawaii also meant that my jeans were tighter than usual with the button disappearing into the rolls of fat around my abdomen. I wasn’t able to move without audible straining and groaning. I had to face up to facts. I was going to die from a freak accident of Luis Vuitton advertisement dropping on my head.
But that’s not all, I cursed the designers of the couch.
Not only was it low and deep but it was also made of suede. (Aesthetics and function are inversely related when it comes to shopping centre furniture designed to keep you shopping and not sitting for hours on end surfing on your phone). The designers of this blasted couch were sure to play a critical role in my demise leaving this earth because of the choice of material for this uncomfortable chaise.
This started me thinking about something else.
When I first saw the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I was in awe.
In the movie, Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) has an overactive imagination. Others may call it daydreaming.
Discounting what you may think about what daydreaming means – whether it’s good or bad for you or whether you believe that daydreaming secretly means you’re shirking adult responsibility, watching Walter come up with alternative realities was an eye-opener because… I do exactly the same thing (but his ones are way more fantastical).
Watching the movie made me realise, I’m not alone! There are others who have some weird-arsed imaginings.
Thank you Walter, I’m not the only weird one.
The Importance of Imagination
The word ‘imagination’ has come up for me many times over the last couple of weeks and it’s a signal for me to start paying attention to it.
It started with my curiosity being piqued with the word “Imagineering” because I was reading a blog post by a sociologist and she mentioned it in the context of the importance of being able to imagine societies of the future. I can’t recall the actual article but the word stuck with me.
Sometime later, I was watching the tedious debate of our two most senior political leaders of the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party in the lead up to our national elections next week. Our current prime minister avoided answering questions related to what society would look like for Australia in the coming years and the need for a complete rethink to our environment and climate agenda and I began to think how, as a society, do we lack this crucial skill of imagination?
Maybe, for too long, we have been too focussed with short term gains that involve incremental changes rather than making exponential changes that involve a completely different type of thinking – one that is long term and imaginative?
But how can we be imaginative when we are head down stuck to our devices? We don’t value hearty discussions and debates with others? We’ve lost the art of conversation? We don’t allow ourselves the time to clear our mental headspace from work and financial pressures with more leisurely pursuits?
It seems that we are in a world that encourages and rewards short term gains, quick rewards and quick wins that stifle our imagination. We don’t allow ourselves the luxury of pontificating, questioning, imagining because not only does it slow us down but we may be fearful of what we come up with – and what it means for the way we live.
Is There a Link Between Empathy and Imagination?
For a while now, I’ve been asking this question to myself as I am going through some kind of personal transformation rethinking a lot of things in my life and re-evaluating my ethics and values; what I deem important for me to live the way I want to live.
High on my list is being in a state of constant learning and growth, being open to new ideas, perspectives and opportunities so that I can build new and wonderful relationships that bring joy and laughter into my life. By meeting new people, I’m able to learn more about their lives and their stories and most importantly, other frames of reference that will enable me to think of possibilities.
Creativity, imagination and laughter (usually at my expense) have always played a part in my life because it was a form of escape for me. Escape from the rigid expectations of my family, friends, employers and organisations.
If I think of the times in my life that have been the most memorable, meaningful and significant, it’s where I learned a lesson of some sort that transformed a relationship I had with someone. Community service is another strong part of my life which has enabled me to see and experience the lives of others and may have helped with building empathy.
Recently I’ve been thinking about whether my overactive imagination is linked to how I empathise with people? Are they linked? Or have I simply been watching too many television shows?
I’m not sure.
I have no proof nor have I researched anything. It’s more like a gut feeling that I have because I’m someone who constantly observes and reflects on my own – and others behaviours. My approach is that I take a helicopter view of myself imagining how others see me, what they see of me and how they perceive my actions and then spend time afterwards analysing the interaction by asking ‘what if’ scenarios.
I wonder if others do the same things to themselves?
Sometimes I send myself in a tizzy just thinking about this stuff and have to retreat a bit to get back some breathing space. When you’re constantly wrapped up in your own world, thinking and rethinking questions and imagining all sorts of ‘what if’ scenarios in one way, then imagining the same another way, it does exhaust you.
We’re going to hear a lot about empathy, compassion, self-awareness, long term thinking, creativity but imagination seems to be something that people aren’t mentioning. I think it’s about time we do.