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Between the informed and the imagined

The dominant pursuit of factual information seems to be overpowering the sense of imagination that spurs creativity.

I stopped writing six months ago. Or writing stopped from me six months ago.

The difference couldn’t be more profound.... and the cycle couldn’t be more vicious. When I stopped writing initially, it was due to schedule and stress. When writing stopped from me... it was owing to lack of imagination.

Lack of imagination triggered loss of motivation. Then followed the inevitable sense of fear that I would not be able to progress beyond a couple of paragraphs even if I tried to write. The final straw of concern was that the world might not approve of what I wrote if my writing wasn’t as interesting or as smooth-flowing as it was in better times.

The biggest strength for a writer, in my opinion, is an ability to pause. The ability to pause and stand still when the world around him spins madly and people go about trying to conquer it.

As he pauses, a writer finds this unique frame of reference through which he can evaluate the world with a completely different yardstick — one that is more emotional and creative and less logical and rational. And the observation brings forth that many questions — questions that trigger the imagination, questions to which all of us could have our own answers and yet modestly concede each other some ground for the sake of sheer harmony.

Questions. I can almost feel questions facing an existential crisis in this information age. Information that is just information, information that need not be and that will never be knowledge. The moment I think of a person and try to imagine what he is up to.... there goes a post of his on social media, clearly showing who he is with and what he is doing. The moment an event of national interest happens, there are opinions that bombard us from all sides. And most of us have little else but to align ourselves with one set of people. And someone else has already formed an opinion for us to embrace.

The impulse for information, I somehow found it overpowering the sense of imagination. So much so that one of the first things that I did when I found that my writing had deserted me was to do a Google search, “Why have I stopped writing?”, and go through the results, rather than introspect.

A couple of years earlier, I would have taken a break and reflected — and curiously, my writing would resurface from the depths of whatever was causing the block at that point in time.

Curiosity is another benefactor of beloved imagination. Till recently we planned trips to destinations with only the name of the place in mind. What was to be expected at the place remained a mystery and an uncertainty. Someone said the sunset on the Arabian Sea is beautiful. I spent many weeks before our trip trying to visualise and imagine that sunset and how the journey could actually play out. Today, however, at the mere click of a button I can have a clear picture and idea of how exactly the sunset would actually play out, minute by minute if I wish so.

Curiosity and uncertainty die an instantaneous death at the hands of instant gratification. An acquaintance from the last generation complains jovially to this day that he never had a chance to look at his future wife till the day of marriage. And that all he could do was to imagine her face when his parents described her.

He still shows the letters he wrote for her while thinking of her (he never did post them though, out of fear!).

Today, on the contray, his daughter makes sure that she looks up her prospective groom on all kinds of social media platforms even before talking to him in person. This generation does it. We want to be “well-informed”. And there is so much information available, that imagination hardly has a role to play anymore.

Information is critical to survival today. To leave even an ounce of it without consuming, will mean falling behind in the rat race.

However, information breeds familiarity. And therein for me lies its conflict with imagination. We are so well-informed that there is hardly anything left to imagine. And this familiarity defines. It defines what is black and what is white, to the point of non-negotiation. If I didn’t know what black is, for me it could also be a tinge of grey. This would probably open a new creative field for me that stretches beyond the conventional black. That would be poetic liberty.

Today, however, with a clear definition of black and white, right and wrong, there is a sense of stupidity and suffocation as I try to imagine something out of its place. Even as I try to cajole my mind to imagine, it tries to follow a logical trajectory, guided by experience and information.

And as I try to take the Internet search engine path to find a way to end this piece in a meaningful manner (hopefully marking the end of another “thought drought”), I just can’t help foresee a new piece of jargon, called “Informed Imagination”!

alok_simha2006@rediffmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:30:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/Between-the-informed-and-the-imagined/article14005394.ece

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