It’s Just Your Imagination!

imagination, writing, thinkingFlash!

Scientists are trying to understand the creative brain.

Hmmm, some people in my family have been trying to understand my brain for decades. My dad used to shake his head at me and intone, “It’s just your imagination, Pammy.”

He never knew how angry that statement made me. What did he mean, JUST my imagination? Did that mean it didn’t count?

But now, wonderfully, neuroscientists and psychologists are claiming that “imagination is the cornerstone of creativity.”

Unfortunately, back when I was growing up in the “olden” days, creativity wasn’t so highly touted. But now a neuroscientist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute of the University of Southern California says, “having original ideas is a process, not a place (within the brain).”

The implication is that it takes a lot of brain to pull off imagination and creativity.dragons, imagination, creativity, writing

So my capability to see tiny, dragon-like lizards on top of maple trees that suddenly glow purple, is not “just” my imagination.

It’s genius!

Researchers are now determining that imagination is only possible with the use of (1) memory (yes, it’s good news that you remember the smell of your 7th grade science teacher’s hair spray) and (2) emotions.

Carousel, Shirley Jones, Gordon McRae, imagination, emotion

Falling in love, in “Carousel.”

Here’s one of my good (emotional) memories: my brother sneaks down to the basement where I’m watching an old movie on TV – “Carousel” with Shirley Jones, in which the love of her life is killed. Little brother taunts me because I’m sobbing at the end, but my dad defends me, saying, “The world would be a better place if all people had the imagination to feel other people’s pain and joy.”

Which brings me to another point researchers are discovering. Some people are inherently more creative and imaginative than others.

I always knew that. Now, perhaps others will view creativity and imagination as immensely special and as a talent to strive for, not ignore.

In fact, a Harvard University researcher noted: “the brain is a creativity machine. You just need to know how to manipulate your software to make it work.”

whale, imagination


Yes, that’s what I do at 5:30 a.m. when I gently wake up, neurons firing, the vivid dream world slowly fading away as I locate Geminia and Frederica, my two soul soothers/imaginators who sit invisibly within my eardrums.

“Did you notice the large whale swimming in the Bay this morning?” Geminia whispers as I begin my early morning walk.

seal, sealife, imagination, San Francisco BayI see a hiccup of a splash in the middle of the bay, and then a seal slaps up, barking an explanation: “That’s Hector. He gets lost all the time. He’s supposed to be in Hawaii by now!”

Ah, Pammy, there’s your imagination again….

A Whale of a Good Time

whale watching, funPeople ask me, “What are you doing for fun on your vacation?”

I’m afraid to answer.

Walking. Wandering cliff sides and warm sandy beaches. Watching whales.

To many, these skimpy answers do not constitute F U N.

Yet, as I peruse the Pacific Ocean from our balcony, or the bar, or the lounge chair, I can’t help but feel the simple joy of walking, wandering, and watching whales as they cavort just seemingly hundreds of yards away.

First I view fountains of water spouting out from the ocean up into the air. Some thing, or things, out there are having a whale of a good time.

They prove it by defying gravity and jumping out of the water, their tons of blubber slapping back down with priceless delight. From my vantage point on the beach, I can see the monumental splashes the whales produce.

I swear, they are having fun out there!

The thought brings me to a scene a decade ago, when our son attended college 20 miles away, but we rarely saw him unless he needed gas, cash, or homemade cookies.

One Saturday he surprised us when he came home at 8 p.m. unannounced or forewarned. As he entered the living room my man and I guiltily jumped apart.

Yes, he caught us, cuddling on the couch, glasses of cabernet half sipped, immersed in the movie we’d rented.

Sonny Boy shook his head in sorrow. “You guys are so boring,” he said sadly.

We laughed about it when he left (for a frat party). We thought we were having fun!

I guess it’s all in the perspective. I choose to follow the whale’s theory: just splash around and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

Just for fun.

(Note: Whales are mammals, so they are warm blooded, breathe air, and give birth. These gentle giants of the oceans are also extremely intelligent. It’s believed that the average Beluga whale has an IQ of 155 – in human terms that’s a genius. Furthermore neuroscientist Professor Patrick Hof at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Dr. Estel van der Gucht of the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology have discovered that the brain of whales contain a special cell that is thought to make humans loving and caring. The neurons (known as spindle cells) allow humans to experience self-consciousness and to interact socially. Previously it was thought that these spindle brain cells, which allow us to feel empathy, were only found in humans and greater apes. However, the research conducted by Professor Hof has found these same cells in whales, and they are also located in the same brain region as humans, suggesting not only they are extremely intelligent but they are also able to experience empathy and love …. And, I would add, fun.)