Our Sixth Sense: Imagination

I once wondered how I could wonder, and why it was so.

Actually that was this morning, but the notion stands. For a moment before the caffeine contently numbed my brain, I truly wondered why it was we could think about things. 

Why can we imagine? 

I decided this was a topic worthy of a post because it does honestly quite interest me, and of course wonder and imagination feed stories.

So we begin! 

From an evolutional standpoint it seems quite clear. A species with the mental capacity to see further than the next meal is, I assume, one far more likely to endure than a shortsighted species. I’m neither a scientist nor a mathematician but that seems like simple math to me. Which means at one point, all those millennia ago at some moment along humanity’s thin timeline, we developed the ability to wonder and imagine. To help us survive and prepare for the future. And I think that answers maybe the why, but for me this begs another question: were there ever versions of us without the ability to imagine? 

I suppose if you go far back enough, it’s almost a definite yes (like fish and stuff), but I mean specifically what we today consider as humans (homo-sapiens if I remember right from science class). Well I did some research on the whole science part of the imagination, but to my surprise found very little. Again, I’m just a simple storyteller, but from what I gather and half-assume, the answer is a rather mildly confident yes. 

Well, great! 

That means our imaginations are the product of our own ability to evolve into the smart people we are today. Well… that’s debatable I suppose. 

But with that knowledge in mind I had a second rather amusing thought. With my very talented brain (speaking strictly in the most technical of terms), I wondered who, if any, was the first among our species to truly wonder and imagine. 

For me, this thought lead to one of those moments where you burst out laughing at nothing in particular, you know the ones? At home it would've been fine, but we hardly daydream at home, and in this case I was in fact at the airport. I know we all do it sometimes, on the bus, or at a library or even at work. I like to think of it as our imaginations being clever enough to make us laugh, but I don't need to tell you how it looks to others when right out of the blue and without even a book in hand you begin to laugh hysterically at literally nothing. People eye you sideways and shuffle away.

Actually, feel free to use that if ever there are no seats left on the bus.

Anyway, I had this thought that made me laugh. It was stupid really, but it was just this scene in my mind of some caveman all those years ago being the first to wonder and imagine. I had Patrick Steward’s voice in my head as the cavemen looked at his less intelligent clan-mates, and I actually still think it’s quite funny.

But enough of that! 

The question is yet unanswered! Was the ability to imagine and wonder a long drawn-out process, or was it simply that one day a human was born with the capacity to imagine and because of it, lived to pass that ability on to all of us? 

If nothing else, it’s an interesting thought, and I do enjoy interesting thoughts. 

So I wonder now: what was the first thing ever imagined? 

For the third time within the same thousand words I’m no scientist, but I assume it was something as simple as the wish for an abundance of food. But who knows? Maybe being smarter than the rest of his or her clan-mates, that first radical thinker looked to the sky and wondered what lay up there. 

Now things are getting cool, hmm?

This means that there must have been a first for every type of thought there is, but can you just for a moment picture what it must have been like for a human with absolutely no precedent, to truly wonder? It must have been downright terrifying. And perhaps even lonely. 

It’s easy for us to wonder today (maybe even too easy in some cases) because people have wondered for ages, it’s in our blood now. But it’s almost hard to believe that at one point it time there was literally no one who wondered. No such concept as imagination. Nothing beyond the next few hours even existed for them. 

This is a writing blog, so I’ll tie this back to stories in a moment, but is it not interesting to wonder about crap like this? Wonder about who was the first to wonder what the floating lights in the sky really were. Wonder who was the first to wonder at the stories in everything around them. Wonder who was the first to create something that wasn’t real. 

Wonder who was the first ever artist?

Anddddd welcome back to the literary part of this post. That whole trail of thought was all to say imagination may have begun as a simple method to anticipate enemies and store food or whatever, but look at what it’s become. 

In itself, imagination has evolved to meet our more modern needs. I would even go so far as to think imagination evolved to let us tell our stories, and build our fictional worlds that we have come to love so much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, writers are undoubtedly crazy, so perhaps this way of thinking may be too. 

But maybe not? 

No one can deny the power in vivid and strong imagination, and it is most certainly what allows us to claim ourselves as a species of storytellers. Look at the absolutely primal place it started, and then look what it does for us now. 

Who here can argue imagination isn't our sixth sense? That’s a serious question, I’d love to know what you think. 

I’ll leave you with one other tidbit for thought I have been mulling over: How far can the evolution of imagination go? 

Let me know what you think. 

Otherwise, thanks for reading.