Sunday, December 28, 2008

Powered by Imagination

Someone smarter than I (and there's no shortage of those) once said that imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor to console him for what he is.

I have a pretty vivid imagination. As you know, I love to read and to listen to old-time radio dramas...both of which activities require the use of one's imagination to fill in the gaps between the words and the imagery around the sounds. Imagination is a wonderful thing, especially for children, because it stretches the mind and allows us to visualize things that we may otherwise never see or experience. Life is, in many ways, powered by imagination.

That's one reason why I was a bit distraught when I saw this story on the CNN website yesterday: Classic Radio Flyer Wagon Updated for 2.0 World.

Many years ago, not long after the invention of the wheel and axle, my parents gave me a Radio Flyer wagon. It looked like this:

It was made of solid steel (which tended to smart when you hit your head on it...which you did a lot), had a high ground clearance for maximum instability (you had a 50% chance of tipping it over while getting in or out), was manifestly unsafe (especially when zooming downhill), and tremendously fun. It was a space ship, a tank, a pirate ship, or anything else we needed it to be. It was powered by imagination.

This is the Radio Flyer wagon as updated for the 21st century:

You'll note that it's made of plastic with gently rounded edges (for safety), has a digital handle (able to track temperature, time, distance and speed), has a very low ground clearance (for balance), has built-in seats and seat belts for pity's sake, and even includes speakers and a dock to plug in your mp3 player.

What is left to the imagination? And how do we aspire to greater things without imagination?

In September of last year, I wrote a post called The Bubble-Wrapped Child in which I fretted about the lengths to which modern parents go to protect their child from every conceivable danger, and wondered whether we are doing our children a disservice by insulating them from the bangs and scrapes kids of my generation and earlier accepted as a daily part of life. The same might be said for toys which are laden with features that take away the imagination that inspires life and learning. I griped about that, too, in last month's post titled Old Toys, New Toys, and Memories.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. It allows us to reach beyond the everyday to the things that shimmer on the distant horizon. It allows a child to be a space explorer, a knight, or anything else.

I'm just a 1.0 guy living in a 2.0 world, I guess. And probably about 50 years from now my grandchildren will be reminiscing about the good old days when the plastic Radio Flyer with the seat belts and the mp3 dock seems as antiquated as the solid steel box Radio Flyer of my generation.

That's sad, but that's life. Gimme imagination any day.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

OMG a dock for an mp3 player in a wagon? Yikes!

John said...

Yeah, and we used to ride in cars without seat belts (forget about air bags) and the dash boards were made of metal! I suppose that a sword made out of plastic is much safer that a long stick or broom handle, but you could always find a stick!

You could pretty much conquer the world with a bicycle, a stick and a bit of imagination!

Mike said...

I'm sure Radio Flyer will make the old one again if they can get enough liability coverage. From .... the Bilbo Underwriting Co.

Eudea-Mamia said...

Of course there's a dock for your MP3 player - God forbid you actually engage in a conversation or listen to nature while outside.

Or is it to be used outside?


Em - proud mom to two little boys who enjoy their Radio Flyer wagon the old school way, sharp edges and all.

Eudea-Mamia said...

P.S. - over from Scholastic Scribe. Your comment about the tree was brilliant.

Blog Stalker said...

I could not agree with you any more. Give me imagination any day of the week!