Imagination … Is It Dead? Can We Save It?

Experts | Think Tank |


By Tank Hoover

Coy Editor Roy “done” it again. We play another round of Clue. He sends me a picture of a big box of 64 Crayola crayons (crans?) and says, “Today’s kids want an iPhone 7 for Christmas. When I was that age I wanted a box of 64 Crayons. I couldn’t imagine anything better. The ultimate badge of coolness in the 2nd Grade class. Other kids had fat Crayons, I had the 64 box, with sharpener built-in, thank you very much — and they were skinny. Think about it Tank, then do something and earn your keep.”

It really hit me. Damn, he’s good at this. He knocks my head, then some writing falls out of it.

I figured this was a great observation by His Editorship and proved to me again why he’s the boss. They call him a “sage” or something around here, but I like Dill Weed better than sage so I don’t know why they named him after a spice that ain’t that good, but those other people must know something I don’t.

So, I got to thinking about this brain stimulating topic and decided it was a sad one, indeed. Or at least I think it is.

Back Then…

Imagination! The greatest toy a kid had who didn’t have a lot. It could take you to places and allow you to do things you couldn’t afford. It was a dress rehearsal and motivator to make you work hard and earn the money needed to do the things you dreamed of doing and wanted as you got older. It made reading books 100 times better than any movie, except maybe perhaps “Lonesome Dove.” Bet you agree there.

I’m sure our Editor in Grief (as in Good Grief, Tank!) had those crayons, and colored his pictures neatly inside the lines. This simple discipline carried him far and was a natural to make sure “we” follow suit and stay within the lines, as he edits our work.

I admit to being one who liked to wander and go outside the lines most of the time. It all started with my first grade teacher, Ms. Judge. With fat blue pencils and long lined sheets of writin’ paper, we would write stories about pictures we cut out of used magazines.

Oh my! The sky was the limit to what we wrote about. Our only limiting factor was what our own brains and imagination could dream up. That, and trying to avoid those big pieces of wood in that tan-colored writing paper. Remember those? You’d be writing along just fine, pressing too hard, breaking the pencil tip now and again (Oh boy, a trip to the sharpener!), then, like hitting a pothole in the road, your tidy line would suddenly stop abruptly or veer off with a wiggly contrail marking its path. But we still wrote the stories.



I was corrupted back then by one of my classmate’s dad, god love him. You see all the magazines were donated from our classmate’s homes. Luckily, there were plenty of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Guns magazine that always went unnoticed or unused. I got the whole enchilada in this plethora of published outdoor propaganda. The pictures in these magazines provided plenty of fodder to stimulate and propagate ideas for adventures in my besieged brain.

Ms. Judge didn’t care what we wrote about, just so long as we were writin’! Boy, would it be interesting today to reread those stories and see where those young authors ended up in their chosen fields today, eh? Back then, teachers knew how important a good imagination was and nurtured it, unlike much of today’s teaching breed.

Charging bears, humongous bucks, mesmerizing guns and hunts in far away places dominated my prose, and I never got sent to the principal’s office once for writing about them. Imagine that today! A gun magazine at school?

So there you have yesterdays deprived, boring kid playing with empty appliance boxes, sticks, digging tunnels leading to secret forts, writing stories, coloring pictures, knowing how to amuse ourselves compared to todays kid. We were masters at thinking outside the box while playing in the box.


Ahh, yes, today’s kid, smartest thing next to a border collie and yet the dog knows how to amuse himself better than his pre-pubescent human pal. But it’s not the kid’s fault. He was exposed to electronic entertainment since before his first birthday.

Whether through negligence, ignorance or laziness, his parents comforted and coddled him to keep him quiet and make him easy to keep, for their convenience, with videos, game players and other battery operated babysitters, while they were out to dinner. Rather than learning how to converse and learn proper table manners while dinning out, they are usually ignored by mom and dad, unless a fellow patron complains to them about the loud, unruly behavior of their darling ‘angel.’

Instead of developing an imagination, today’s kids are learning dependency on electronic gadgetry. The smartphone is the ultimate conquest (conqueror?) of the electronically attached adolescent. With an electronic brain 500 times more sophisticated than the first Apollo spaceship, these mind numbing devices leave a kids imagination grounded and out of orbit, as they suck out any common sense, leaving them totally distracted to the outside world.

And don’t think kids are the only culprits here. How many times have you been out to lunch with a friend and find yourself competing with the damn phone? These electronic devices are becoming vices in their own right. What was made for convenience and ease is disrupting our face-to-face exchanges with fake friends, “selfies” and I, I, I, I — did that, ate this, look-at-me mentality. Too many are now faceless “friends” who really don’t care.

When I go out with friends now, I always grab the kid’s menu. When everyone breaks out the iPhones, I break out the “crans” coming with the kid’s menu and start coloring — outside the lines. As I scribble, I think back to the good ol’ days when an empty box was your ticket to anywhere you wanted your mind to take you. That, and a few Crayola Crayons.

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