If it is true that we are living through a time in which our collective imagination is increasingly devalued and undernourished, what might be the role of story in that, and how might story be part of the remedy? There are few better people to discuss this with than Sarah Woods. Sarah is a writer across all media and her work has been produced by many companies including the RSC, Hampstead and the BBC.
I don’t know about you, but most of my time at school did very little to foster my imagination. It tended to be viewed as though I had brought a naughty, troublesome friend to school with me, one not afraid to point out the absurdity of most of what we did, and of how we did it. In today’s education system, with its pressures from league tables, test results and uninspiring curricula, the imagination still struggles to be heard and valued. Fighting its corner, in Canada at least, is Gillian Judson.
As the research stage of the book I am writing on imagination starts to wraps up, it was a real treat recently to chat to Donna Rose Addis, a Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Auckland. One of the areas I’ve been researching, as a complete novice to neuroscience, has been what happens in our brains when we imagine. I had read several papers she had written about the similarities between imagination and memory, our abilities to recall the past, and to imagine the future…
“In 1890, Clément Ader was fascinated by bats. He wanted to fly like them. He brought gigantic bats with 1 meter long wings from India and studied their morphology by letting them fly in his private garden in a way to create a flying machine that would look like them. At the end, the product looked like a huge, pink, completely non-proportioned, made of fabric machine. People surrounding him were constantly making fun of him and this non-sense project while he kept believing in it. His first try out happened in the Gretz-Armainvilliers’s castle’s garden, where this construction flew for 50 meters but only with a height of 20 centimeters above the ground. This attempt was like an imaginary fantasy, it was absurd, it was nothing. It was the start of aviation”.
How do we make young people pay better attention, make wiser decisions, regulate their emotions more effectively, and feel empathy and deploy compassion? We need to get back to the basics. It’s not just passing on the climate change story; it’s actually having the machinery between our ears that could deal with such a complex issue.
One of the most fascinating craft breweries in the UK can be found nestled in a series of arches beneath a railway bridge in Bermondsey in London. For the last 9 years, The Kernel, under the guidance of its founder Evin O’Riordan, have pioneered not just amazing and distinctive beers, but also an approach rooted in connection to place, to a different way of doing business.
John McCarthy is a journalist, writer and broadcaster who works for the BBC and has written several books. He became a household name in the 1980s when, on his first foreign assignment in the Lebanon, he was kidnapped and held captive for just over 5 years. This was, as he puts it, “my curious claim […]
I can’t even imagine being bored. Or if I’m caught out by accident, waiting in a long line at the airport, it’s a bit different. I’m just not happy with the idea of maybe missing the flight, and I have something to do, but otherwise, I’m totally happy to be there. I say, “Why should I be bored?” There’s nothing to be bored, so I just do some mental practice, recite some prayers, or whatever. I wish there would be enough time to be bored! My ideal situation is 24 hours boredom all year round. Sitting on the balcony of my hermitage, watching the Himalaya, if you call that boredom, that’s fine enough with me.
Manish Jain lives in Udaipur, Rajasthan, in North India. He works with a movement called Shikshantar, ‘The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development’. He has been working for the last 20 years, initiating many projects around unlearning, sustainable living, and Gift Culture. He is also co-founder of Swaraj University – India’s first university dedicated to localization. You can read more about his work here. He very kindly spent a fascinating hour chatting to me via Skype…
Dr Larry Rosen is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at California State University. He has been a teacher for 45 years and has been studying the impact of technology for 33 years, and has written 7 books on the subject. He does a lot of research which explores the psychological impact of technology. He is co-author, with Adam Gazzaley (who we will also interview soon), of the brilliant ‘Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World’.
We talked by Skype, and I started by asking him how we would assess the initial results from the 20 year digital ‘experiment’. How are we doing? Where do we find ourselves? Fundamentally, I asked him, do you think we’ll look back and think it was all worth it?