Imagining for Better or for Worse
The imagination should be a mirror, not a psychedelic portal, transcending reality without renouncing the transcendentals (Sean Fitzpatrick, “Flying Elephants and the Margins of Imagination”)
There are (at least) two ways in which imagination (or an imaginary world) can relate to the real world.
The one is distracting and ultimately destructive — here, the imagination creates a dome around you which shields you from the reality which is. The world that you may project onto that dome may be beautiful in its own right, but it blocks out the sight of the stars and the sun and the sky.
The other is nurturing and responsive — here, imagination takes what is and works with it in a resonant fashion, like harmony to a melody, bringing out points of beauty in the real world that would not otherwise have been seen.
John Senior once remarked that a flying horse is a good use of imagination, while Dumbo, a flying elephant, is “an abomination of the imagination.” It may be difficult to draw the line between the two, but these are two modes of imagining that should lead us to caution. Are we telling stories that turn us away from reality, or are we weaving tales that enhance our being in the world?