I had a conversation with a co-worker on Monday that lead to this post. Just a bit of background…
My co-worker (we’ll call her Katherine) has three small children, but this specifically centered around her eight year old daughter (we’ll call her Fiona). We were having a conversation about something else and it made me think of a scene from Matilda, one of my favorite Roald Dahl books. I told Katherine this and explained the scene, and was met with a blank stare.
“Have you ever read Matilda?” I asked.
“Have you ever seen the movie?” I asked.
“What about The Witches?” Another of my favorite Roald Dahl books.
Okay, so, no reading of any Roald Dahl books. I was shocked but I persevered. I decided to ask if Fiona had read any of them. She’s eight but I know that she reads at a fifth grade level. I figured her teacher might have suggested one of those books (or even her own dad who teaches fifth grade). Nothing, Fiona had never read any of them. Now, maybe she’s a little young; but with her reading level, I don’t think so. The conversation then turned into my co-worker asking me what other Roald Dahl books Fiona should read and a list was made.
What surprised me about all of this was the fact that she was so unfamiliar with his books. (This story is taking a while, but I have a point, I promise. Hang in there.) It did make me glad to see that while my co-worker might not be a big reader, she encourages her daughter who loves it.
Then, I started thinking about this in terms of other conversations I’ve had with this person. There was one in particular that involved her sister’s wish list on Amazon and a birthday present. “She has three seasons of Doctor Who on here. I am NOT buying her those.” (I won’t even go into how mortally offended I was by her dismissal of Doctor Who.) I realized the bigger issue; there seems to be a lack of imagination here – no whimsy, no make believe.
Now, I’m not trying to be mean, I’m really not (although I’m sure it sounds like it). She is a very nice person and I like working with her; we just couldn’t be more different in many ways. It’s more like I’m just now coming to the realization that not everyone grew up in a house like I did where we read books by Roald Dahl and Tolkien and with a mom obsessed with dragons and fairies. Imagination was encouraged and was just…sort of…taken for granted I suppose.
So, what does all of this have to do with inspiration?
It inspires me to use my imagination even more than I currently do. I feel like imagination is slipping away from society in a lot of ways and I find that scary. Nothing is spontaneous anymore; everything is planned to within an inch of its life. You don’t see kids just running around outside making up stories, wearing bath towels as capes. At least, not in my little sphere of the world. Everyone is so obsessed with succeeding or being the best, they ignore being creative. As my husband would say, “No one’s fun anymore!”
So, I’m inspired by Roald Dahl who had a wonderful imagination and built worlds where kids saved the day. I’m inspired to be more creative and try new things. I’m inspired to find ways to get others to use their imagination. And mostly, I’m inspired to never let my own imagination die. To live without it would be, well, unimaginable.
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Exactly why arts education in schools should NEVER be the first thing to go when there are budget issues. Culture without “culture” is scary. We'll end up a society full of Agatha Trunchbulls.
Yep, you make a very good point about imagination- it's like the plot of The Never Ending Story is happening before our very eyes, accck!! No, seriously, I feel exactly the same way. At my day-job all day long we sit at desks typing away at crap that doesn't matter, and then we bring our menial pay home to stress out over how we're going to use it to make ends meet- not a fun life. It's like there's no time for imagination and people are scared to “waste time” using it. Sigh… Thank God there are people out there who go against the grain and fight for their art to see the light of day, it's inspiring to the rest of us daydreamers (and I think everyone is a daydreamer-some of us just don't realize it yet).
*Love* this post. I've been working this week with my son's art teacher in all her classes. While it's been a blast, it's also been depressing. There are so many kids who “can't think of anything” to make from clay. Seriously? Clay is meant for imagination and experimentation. Many of the kids just sat there and stared at the slab of clay completely at a loss. As I talked to each of these kids, they all seemed to have something in common – an inability to imagine the slab as being anything but a slab.
Love this post! I wholeheartedly agree- imagination is an endangered species.
Before my son was even born, I was on Amazon making booklists of everything I want him to read. Books I read and loved as a child. Books like “Redwall”, “The Borrowers”, “Bunnicula”, “Motorcycle Mouse”. And yes, “The BFG”.
I can't wait until he gets older so we can enjoy them together!
The Witches scared me senseless but The Twits was probably my famous. Like Dahl, my mom is Norwegian so we read all of them together. Thanks for joining!
Not even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? One of the best things about being a parent is that you can do all this fun imaginative stuff with your kids. My kids still dress up and play – some of the funniest things I've heard have come from eavesdropping on their conversations…
But then again, their Mum loves telling stories too…
Imagination should be such a big part of growing up (and was when I was a kid, making up stories and play acting) and it will be a real shame for kids to lose that. Roald Dahl is timeless and should be encouraged at every opportunity for kids and adults to read!
Wow. The Witches and James and the Giant Peach had a huge impact on me when I was a little kid….
For the Witches, it was the movie. I just found it so haunting and strange, and couldn't help but imagine myself in that story.
For James and the Giant Peach, it was the book, which we had to read in class. Just so weird and surreal, you never knew what would happen next or who would show up!
Thanks for sharing 🙂
PS. It'd be great if you could turn off “Captcha” in your Blogger settings (under Comments) so that it's easier to post comments 🙂
Noted and done. I think. 🙂
Wow. This post almost made me cry. No imagination? Life would be so boring without it, and dare I say it? Pointless. *cringes at that* I think I want a bumper sticker that says “Flood the world with imagination.” Yep.
I'd buy that bumper sticker!
I was not a bigger reader as a kid, because I wasn't a very good reader. It's a vicious cycle. But back when I was a kid, we did have imagination. We played outside all hours of the day and night too!
Your co-worker is lucky to have you to guide her with the reading lists. 🙂