Most people rarely access the imagination.
That doesn’t mean they don’t daydream, “imagine” things in the sense that they picture what they want, like a new car or a great vacation, or they picture what they don’t want, like their lover leaving them for another lover.
In that sense people “imagine.”
But that’s not imagination.
Those are thoughts and patterns of familiar narratives or cultural memes that help you understand your own reality, that which filter out phenomenon that doesn’t serve your world view or provide answers that you need for immediate problems.
It’s a perfect neuroscience metaphor that the older you get the more the right side of your brain deteriorates, that is, the creative half, much faster than the left. The logical side of your brain, the mathematical side, the side that recognizes patterns stays younger longer, so even if you’re experiencing cognitive decline, your ability to recognize patterns could allow you to appear to others as wise.
Even one who suffers from Alzheimer’s, like Ronald Reagan, can be president. Elkhonon Goldberg calls this wisdom, or at least claims that part of wisdom is this instant access to patterns accumulated over a lifetime.
The older we get the more we use pattern recognition over imagination.
As a young man Einstein imagined himself chasing after light beams, as an older man he tried to find the patterns that would connect the known forces of physics, to find the unified theory.
His failure was one of imagination.
Few people can enter into the realms of the imagination, those places that have been visited by great creators, like the said Einstein or the great Tony Morrison, two geniuses of exceptional access to the imaginal.
However, everybody has experienced the imaginary realms.
This can happen to mostly anyone:
Maybe you’re doing nothing, maybe sitting on the grass on a nice day in a park. You look up in the tree and you see leaves twittering and sparkling with light, maybe a bird tritely whistling a tune, and you suddenly feel something, connected.
You’re not thinking about it, but you’re somewhere beyond thought, at least you are for a moment, before the patterns and thoughts began to emerge and you filter out the experience to have a singular meaning.
These moments are wormholes into the imaginary realms, and if you go into them, what you see and experience is not dependent on your tendency to observe phenomenon with a cause-and-effect filter.
In fact, The Writer’s High is the wormhole into pure imagination, the astral plane, as it were.
Poets (and I would argue scientists and mystics) can enter into these realms quite often, which is why they are so critical to human survival.
What exists in those realms is connection with the pure source of creativity, God, creativity, whatever you want to call it, Will, Desire, the Ein sof. Imagination is one of the things in life that make us want to live, even among suffering.