Can imagination be guided?
| I was in grade 12 before it seriously dawned on me that I had been born.
One day our literature teacher walked into class and announced that he was going to unlock our imagination. In a grade 12 boys-only school I don’t think any of us was lacking in imagination. So our teacher told us that we were free to write about anything we wanted as long as it started with the words: “I woke up in a dark cave.”
When no further guidance was given about what exactly he wanted, we started to write. For me it was simple, it was easy and it all came rushing out through my pen.
It involved a cave, cramped darkness, muffled sounds, water, struggling, panicking, tightness, squeezing out, blinding brightness, breathing air, exhaustion and crying with relief.
The tale was simple and oddly satisfying. I re-read it, loved it, changed nothing and handed it to the teacher with that quiet assurance that my story and probably only mine would be picked for a public reading. I had used my imagination. It felt complete. It felt good.
Three long days later, our teacher brought our stories back unmarked and apparently unread. No public reading, no fuss. I felt cheated! But then… to the baffled class he said: “I want you to re-read your story and look at it as your own birth metaphor.”
Silence slowly muzzled the class as we, at first, wondered what he meant. Like all the others I sat quietly at my desk and started reading my own story and gradually another reality invaded my consciousness when I saw, for the first time that my story was more than just an imaginary tale. It became so clear to me that it was depicting the struggles of a birthing baby, the struggles of my own birth pangs.
The story from the point of view of a full term baby pushing through the birth canal was not what I had intended. It felt too private, yet there it was. Oddly unsettling!
And so… thankful it had not been read, and… with our teacher’s calculated invitation to see beyond the written words, my imagination was unlocked and launched.