The constructive imagination is able to “tear things to pieces” in search for material, as well as to “join things together” in its work of building. The importance of the imagination in all the processes of intellectual thought is great. Without imagination man could not reason or manifest any intellectual process. It is impossible to consider the subject of thought without first regarding the processes of imagination. And yet it is common to hear persons speak of the imagination as if it were a faculty of mere fancy, useless and without place in the practical world of thought.
DEVELOPING THE IMAGINATION.
The imagination is capable of development and training. The general rules for development of the imagination are practically those which we have stated in connection with the development of the memory. There is the same necessity for plenty of material; for the formation of clear and deep impressions and clear-cut mental images; the same necessity for repeated impression, and the frequent use and employment of the faculty. The practice of visualization, of course, strengthens the power of the imagination as it does that of the memory, the two powers being intimately related. The imagination may be strengthened and trained by deliberately recalling previous impressions and then combining them into new relations. The materials of memory may be torn apart and then re-combined and re-grouped. In the same way one may enter into the feelings and thoughts of other persons by imagining one’s self in their place and endeavoring to act out in imagination the life of such persons. In this way one may build up a much fuller and broader conception of human nature and human motives.
In this place, also, we should caution the student against the common waste of the powers of the imagination, and the dissipation of its powers in idle fancies and daydreams. Many persons misuse their imagination in this way and not only weaken its power for effective work but also waste their time and energy. Daydreams are notoriously unfit for the real, practical work of life.
IMAGINATION AND IDEALS.
And, finally, the student should remember that in the category of the imaginative powers must be placed that phase of mental activity which has so much to do with the making or marring of one’s life–the formation of ideals. Our ideals are the patterns after which we shape our life. According to the nature of our ideals is the character of the life we lead.
Our ideals are the supports of that which we call _character_.
It is a truth, old as the race, and now being perceived most clearly by thinkers, that indeed “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” The influence of our ideals is perceived to affect not only our character but also our place and degree of success in life. We grow to be that of which we have held ideals. If we create an ideal, either of general qualities or else these qualities as manifested by some person living or dead, and keep that ideal ever before us, we cannot help developing traits and qualities corresponding to those of our ideal. Careful thought will show that character depends greatly upon the nature of our ideals; therefore we see the effect of the imagination in character building.
Moreover, our imagination has an important bearing on our actions. Many a man has committed an imprudent or immoral act which he would not have done had he been possessed of an imagination which showed him the probable results of the action. In the same way many men have been inspired to great deeds and achievements by reason of their imagination picturing to them the possible results of certain action. The “big things” in all walks of life have been performed by men who had sufficient imagination to picture the possibilities of certain courses or plans. The railroads, bridges, telegraph lines, cable lines, and other works of man are the results of the imagination of some men. The good fairy godmother always provides a vivid and lively imagination among the gifts she bestows upon her beloved godchildren. Well did the old philosopher pray to the gods: “And, with all, give unto me a clear and active imagination.”
The dramatic values of life depend upon the quality of the imagination. Life without imagination is mechanical and dreary. Imagination may increase the susceptibility to pain, but it pays for this by increasing the capacity for joy and happiness. The pig has but little imagination,–little pain and little joy,–but who envies the pig? The person with a clear and active imagination is in a measure a creator of his world, or at least a re-creator. He takes an active part in the creative activities of the universe, instead of being a mere pawn pushed here and there in the game of life.
Again, the divine gift of sympathy and understanding depends materially upon the possession of a good imagination. One can never understand the pain or problems of another unless he first can imagine himself in the place of the other. Imagination is at the very heart of sympathy. One may be possessed of great capacity for feeling, but owing to his lack of imagination may never have this feeling called into action. The person who would sympathize with others must first learn to understand them and feel their emotions. This he can do only if he has the proper degree of imagination. Those who reach the heart of the people must first be reached by the feelings of the people. And this is possible only to him whose imagination enables him to picture himself in the same condition as others, and thus awaken his latent feelings and sympathies and understanding. Thus it is seen that the imagination touches not only our intellectual life but also our emotional nature. Imagination is the very life of the soul.