All life is by its very nature creative—everything alive is constantly trying to make more of itself. Humans, however, are uniquely creative. It’s not enough that we make more humans; we also have to make Tupperware, The Eiffel Tower, and Hamlet. This great gift, however, came with a bit of a price. In order to create imaginatively, we must be able to cast our vision into the future and recall the past. This, I believe, is more or less what Adam and Eve got when they bit that fruit.
It’s a neat trick, this applied imagination, but a dangerous one. Quantum physics aside, neither the past nor the future exist in the Here And Now, yet these imagined moments can be as great a force in your life as the man sitting next to you on the bus. Greater actually. Regret is the act of trying and failing to rewrite the past; worry is an attempt to solve a problem that does not yet exist. These twin devils cause far more trouble than anyone or anything with which you are in contact at the moment, and precisely because they do not exist.
We are to some degree all children with super powers. Imagine if a three year-old could lift a car with one hand. This is all of us. We arrived with a tool so immensely powerful there is literally no limit to what it can do. You are capable of imagining yourself right into prison, if you like. Once, a man trapped overnight in what he believed was a 35 degree meat locker, died of hypothermia. The locker was room temperature, but he had convinced himself otherwise.
This is why in Friday’s column I wrote about our Zone of Influence. We must understand our super power for what it is. It need not be our greatest source of suffering. The imagination is a fantastic tool, but The Here And Now is where you live. You are a captain of your own ship, and the waters you must navigate are beneath you. Because of our imaginations, we know that we will someday die—yet we were not gifted with it for that bleak purpose. Imagination is the crackling of life itself, inspiring creation not for survival’s sake, but for creation’s sake alone, which, to our own continued wonderment, seems to be enough.