Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.
From what I recall, this rhyme in preschool books was illustrated with an impersonated egg. An egg sits on a wall, somehow rolls down or drops down to the floor. The second law of thermodynamics comes into effect – entropy is lost. King’s horses and men try to go against physics but fail. Humpty Dumpty is hit on the head, therefore slips into a coma. The King for whatever reason has a weird liking for this egg. He freaks out and declares nobody will have omelets in the kingdom till Humpty recovers. The entire kingdom, with some reluctance, observes the omelet fast. Horsemen are sent to four corners of the earth (days of flat earthers!) with goodwill messages. Consecutively, the entire globe is omelet fasting. There are too many eggs, and chicks, and their brothers everywhere. Years pass by. The king is dead. Poultry’s culture has taken over. Kukdukoo has become an internationally recognized language. One fateful day, there’s thunder and lightning. An oracle is heard, “Kukdookooooo” (translation: Humpty is king!) The lightning hits Humpty where it hurt and he comes back to life and reigns for 3 thousand years until ice age.
Imagination is a faculty where things can end up very differently even for a crackhead. It is the advent of creative power – or as Stephen Covey would put it – the place of the first creation. The ability to imagine is unique to humans. One of the reasons why we came up with languages much distinct than mere kukdookoos. Don’t get it wrong! Imagination is very different from it’s counterpart – thinking: one can think and plan their next meal, but to come up with an entirely new dish requires either accidents or imagination.
Nearly two years ago, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reportedly said in an interview that Indians lack creativity. They may work hard, get an MBA, even buy a Mercedes, but any technological breakthrough in India is not likely. What he essentially put forward was a challenge for more than 130 crore Indians to prove him wrong. That, or getting butt-hurt like we did.
I won’t get into the history and insist we gave the world zero, the chess, or the Kamasutra – each of which must have required a plethora of imaginative abilities. The question is for today. Something must have gone really wrong for a subcontinent full of highly imaginative people to trade it for MBAs: when, and how?
Chatur in 3 Idiots has placed his trust in Babaji ka chooran which apparently helps him memorize better. He farts repeatedly as he swings around his room with his notes making life for his roommate, well… a nosy affair. In the classroom, Chatur is commended for the fluency with which he can recite the definitions he memorized the other day. Years down the line, he has the classic Humpty fall upon finding out his archenemy Chhachad has tasted a totally different dimension of success in life. There is no recovering from that. 3 Idiots was a call to the millennials to put to purpose their faculty of imagination. Many testimonials were heard about making the pro-engineering choice, because 3 Idiots.
The truth about engineering, if not most academic, in India is you have more bit to memorize. Once they have leaped into what they did not see beforehand, a good percentage of these engineering grads purchase SLR cameras or write poetry for the following four years. One sad reason behind why this is happening could be the classroom’s failure in engaging the students’ imaginative/creative tendencies.
Nursery rhymes and cartoons are a prime example of the fact that humans, by default, are highly imaginative. Children do not protest against humanized egg Humpty Dumpty or the big annual lie Santa Claus. Their imagination is a welcome place, and what they can imagine, they accept. As a child grows, he learns that all that logic cannot immediately explain is absurd. So he shelves his imaginative faculty till it rusts and decays or is forgotten at worst.
No day is a bad day to pick it back, to dust off time and constraints and delve back into it. I believe imagining and reimagining constitutes an interesting mental exercise. C. S. Lewis accounted for it in Surprised by Joy. He mentions going back to a time when he was but a Scottish kid who spent an enormous amount of time with his imaginary friends. Growing into adulthood, he did not shy away from bringing them all to life in The Chronicles of Narnia series. …and then suddenly Aslan came pounding into it. I think I had been having many dreams about lions that time.
Life that lacks imagination is in arrest and is like a vibrating fraction yearning for proportioned flavor. For who we were made to be, there is no trading. One more reason why the kingdom of heaven is for the childlike – Awake. Expectant. Imaginative.
Featured picture by Shalom Christopher.