Maurice Sendak died today.

Where The Wild Things Are made me appreciate my imagination.

I knew Max; I was Max. In my imaginary white pointy-eared wolf suit, I left the disgrace of my bedroom and I ruled worlds. I expended my energy, indulged my lust for escape and wrested some tiny element of control over my world from my happy home environment. I explored my curiosity and my fears through my imagination. I was a Wild Thing.

Sendak showed me the value of mind adventures.

Imagination, we know, is a valuable tool.

Escapism: the door to another world, such as those of JRR Tolkien or George Lucas.

Empathy: a variant level of social interaction cogently explained by Simon Baron-Cohen.

Illumination: a shocking understanding via books such as Wild Swans, Nothing to Envy, The Constant Gardener.

Visualisation: the competitive-edge for sportspeople or performers which has formal approval.

Experimentation: the recent popularity of ‘Mommy-porn’. Is subjugation what women really want? Or is it a safe way of playing with ideas, while remaining in control?

Augusto Boal, South American theatre director and political agitator, developed a way of ‘rehearsing’ conflict resolution, enabling people to articulate and refine their ideas through role-play. Using their imaginations, the voiceless found a voice.

I tried that method during my theatre degree. Not exactly an angry peasant starved by a landowner … but a furious feminist versus the landlord who wouldn’t serve me a pint because I was a woman. I played me (and spat all the vitriol I wish I’d had the guts to say at the time) at the actor opposite. We switched roles. I stood in his shoes. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was an education. I spat less. I looked at myself differently. I imagined how he felt.

Imagination allows us to walk in others’ shoes, experiment, dip toes into comprehension, avoid the present and prepare for the future.

Imagination allows us to venture places we cannot go, may not want to go, ought to go, fancy going but just for a night, and maybe should appreciate a little more.

Imagination is what makes us different.

Thank you, Mr Sendak, for all our Wild Things.

 

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