The impulse to create, to manifest the imagination into reality, has been with humans for a long time. Back when our ancestors were kicking around in the tall grass – and a good day meant not being eaten by a dinosaur – we felt the urge. It bubbled up from some hidden place and compelled us to make charcoal drawings on stone walls; conjure up the spirits of man and beast. Crude stone and wood fetishes held the power of long-forgotten animist gods. As we created, as we told our stories, we practiced a sort of magic. Forward now by 100,000 years or so and we haven’t changed all that much.
Communal fires might have been replaced with the magic glow of handheld electric rectangles, but the principle is the same. We gather round the light and search for entertainment, understanding, and connection. But instead of the mysterious tales of our tribal ancestors, we have the entirety of humanity’s record.
Difference is, in days old every storyteller held a captive audience. Where were their listeners to go? Bored of a story they had heard before, there was no portable storytelling machine tucked into their loincloth. The only option they had was to leave the safety of the fire or club the storyteller to death. Likely, those recounting the ancient stories learned quick the magic of what to embellish and what to omit. As they* say, “adapt or die.”
So now, here, in the distant mysterious future world of the twenty-first century, we mash and slide our thumbs against little pieces of glass. Each of us a storyteller now, we shout over the roar of the worldwide firepit, hoping beyond that what we’ve got to say is worth hearing.
But maybe not.
Maybe that person, scraping a hunk of charred wood against the rock, was just doing it because they enjoyed it. Maybe they carved their figures and tucked them away, secret and apart from the judgement of the tribe. Perhaps the need to entertain came later. Or perhaps they hid their work away for fear of being accused of some dark art. Surely the first among humans to witness the creation of art thought they were witnessing something magical.
Maybe they were.
We continue, in the ancient tradition, and pour all that we are into the work of manifesting our imaginations. Poured out, what we create hits the world ocean of ideas like a lone drop of water. Trick is, for me at least, is to let that drop go. Let it dissipate into the vastness and not worry about whether or not anyone ever swims in it.
*the mysterious, elusive, universal “they”