Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Power of Imagination

My second oldest grandson can’t understand how I survived a childhood without television. Ethan thinks I was really deprived because we didn’t have TV until I was in high school.

There were many outdoor pursuits, of course. A major indoor solace at the time was reading and listening to radio, pursuits enjoyed then and now by many of my generation. Those who didn’t experience it can’t imagine how exciting it was to hurry home from school and tune in a favorite show or, at night, gather around the radio with family to listen to a popular program.

One of my favorites at the time was “I Love a Mystery,” which followed three adventurers, Jack, Doc and Reggie, as they went around the world fighting monsters and solving mysteries. I think it was one of the factors leading to my choice of writing genre. I was thrilled when my son found 57 episodes of the show available free on line: They may not be as great as I remembered, but I’m still listening.

We also went to a lot of movies, particularly the Saturday matinees where you got a feature and a serial.

That wasn’t the last time I went without TV, either. While living in Korea I made do again with reading, radio and film when not involved in other activities. And, when my own children were young, there was a long period when we had no TV. I couldn’t afford it at the time. They occasionally remind me and their children of those days. During that same period I also made a practice of reading stories and poetry to them after dinner—both to compensate for the lack of television and in hope it might inspire in them a love for reading. Since they do read when they have time I may have succeeded in the latter goal.

While Ethan might not agree I believe people who’ve grown up with television have been deprived of something we had. Reading and listening to radio requires more use of the imagination. A lack of imagination is a prime reason why there’s so much drivel on present-day TV. Reality shows? Don’t get me started.

As Conrad so aptly put it, “Only in men’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.”

Shakespeare knew it even earlier:

“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”


  1. Oh yes, imagination. I took grew up without a t.v. did not have one till I was about 19. An avid radio listener, I am still hooked on Radio 4 the best thing the BBC has and long lmay it reign. Also reading, two or three books a week. The movies, too. I used to go three times a week. They used to change the films on a Thursday, so you never had to repeat.

    I think it was a great time to be born, but do I have on rose tinted specs? Put it another way, it was a great time to be a kid, and don't get me going on how safe it was to play outside!