Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Memory and Imagination

A new study shows that we use the same mechanisms of the brain to imagine as we do to create memories. So the Greeks had it right: memory IS mother of the Muses. The study shows too that as we remember less, our imagination decreases as well. This suggest something regarding education. You cannot be creative unless you have something in your head -- that is, you have to have content, something remembered. More, this suggests that the more you know (remember), the more imaginative you will be. Thus, the current trend in process-oriented, contentless education to let kids be more "imaginative" is having the opposite effect. Am I surprised? Not at all. You can't think without objects of thought, and you can't create without having things to put together. You can't imagine without memory. If we want our students to be more imaginative, we need to stop focusing on "imagination" and instead focus on teaching them lot and lots of things so that they will have something to imagine in the first place. I certainly see this with myself. I go through cycles of absorption of more new information and creation of more new works, whether scholarly or artistic. Right now I'm going through an artistic phase, but one that is informed by more knowledge of play structures and plots, resulting in my beginning to work on a new play. This is my third play. The first was a tragedy, "The Existentialists," and the second was a comedy, "Hef's Bunnies." This one, currently untitled, is a "romance" in the Shakespearean tradition (vs. his comedies, tragedies, and history plays). I also have plots for other plays, including another tragedy. If the past is any guide to the future, I will create until I fill drained, then I will fill myself up again by reading more and more until I'm filled up again, and pour myself out into more works. If only I had a "secretarial phase" that I went through, I could probably get a few more of these things published than I have.
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