While I was in London, I attended an intruiging workshop entitled 'The Imagined Mind', which took place at the London School of Economics. This was part of the Literary Festival organised by the school. I thought the panel was very interesting. The speakers had different backgrounds, but they all played an essential role in helping to understand the topic. There was a bestselling author, an anthropologist, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst.
The workshop revolved around two basic questions : Can there be an actual connection between what is imagined and what is real in the human mind? and, Is there a link between our world as percieved through scientific knowledge and our world as percieved through fiction?
I was bewildered! I've always been a lover of the beautiful imagery in literature, which often comes from imagination. Could this possibly be anything beyond just only fiction? Or better yet, could it actually have an actual role in real life?
That would be an ultimate dream for me.
It is said that there is a direct link between childhood and imagination. Usually, it is thought that children don't have a real grasp on reality, but some experts think it is just the opposite. Some even feel that, by imagining things that are not real, children can actually develop moral awarness. For example, if a child imagines the severe consequences of doing what he or she was strictly forbidden to do, then he or she would not do it in the first place. Imagination can help children tell right from wrong!
Most importantly, and this I found particularly interesting, the panel questioned whether childhood is real. They said it is both. A child usually has the wildest of imaginations, and only becomes realistic much later. After all, who can guarentee that everything they remember from their childhood is real? It could simply be an exaggerated image and nothing more. I remember once thinking that I was about to be kidnapped by a builder when I was very little. I rushed back to my family and claimed that he had started to attack my sister, cousin and myself, but then he decided that he felt sorry for us in the end. I was just a little girl, nothing more or less, and this could easily be coming from my dynamic imagination as a child. I can never tell now if this was actually true! Was I about to be kidnapped or not?
So childhood is both real and unreal.
Unto the second question, regarding science and fiction and the link between them. The panel said that science and the imagination go together. They invited people to not get stuck in the idea of seperating them from eachother. Not only that, they said that language and fiction can help understand the human mind when science falls short! Some even felt that fiction is superior. Here is why: science nowadays has become so advanced in analysing the wonders of the human mind, but that can never replace the role of language, which communicates images inside the mind to the outer world. In evidence of that being true, the author on the panel explained how he was able to understand the mind of his challenged brother through writing a novel about what it was like growing up together. In ways, that could also help his readers understand his own mind.
Fascinating, isn't it?
After this workshop I was left to ponder on my own. I was so taken by the idea of mixing the real with the unreal, and by the power of imagery. Now, when I read literature and plunge into its imagery, I find that it helps me discover how genius, sane or insane the writer is, and more importantly, it gives me hints about what that writer is like. Just as eyes are a window to the soul, words are a window to the mind.