Wednesday, November 20, 2002


I shall boast of the weather in So. Calif. one more time. It will be in the 80s at the beaches, in the 90s inland today. My eyes feasted on the deep blue sky this morning as I hung out my clothes to dry, stretching up to fasten the clothes onto the rather high line, head flung back.

In the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly, David Brooks discusses a book by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. (Unfortunately, Brooks's essay, "Light Shows of the Mind," is not available online.) The process of "blending" the multitudes of concepts and sensations perceived by the mind is imagination.
Without our permission, our imaginations range around connecting one set of perceptions to another. The imagination builds fantasy landscapes and experiences and then moves into them to see what they're like. (p. 30)
Brooks explains shopping behavior in terms of imagination; we buy what "fires" our imaginations and then set that thing aside when it no longer has such an effect.

That the imagination can connect both fantasy and reality is what keeps us moving ahead, advancing:
For example, our imaginations trick us into undertaking difficult tasks. We decide to learn a language, renovate our house, move to a new town, have children, or begin writing a book [or undertake a Ph.D. program or a complicated knitting project]. We envision the pleasure and satisfaction we will feel and the success we will achieve. Then those tasks turn out to be hard, and the difficulties we encounter bring out our best exertions and make us better people. If our imaginations hadn't deceived us with glorious visions, we might never have started that book or that renovation [or that Ph.D. program or that knitting project] the first place. (p. 31)
What "fires" my imagination at the moment are beautiful knitting books of sweaters with complex patterns in rich colors photographed on remote Hebridean islands. What I am searching for is something to light up my imagination and compel me to plunge ahead with my studies.

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