I just started reading a book called Science, Order, and Creativity by the physicists David Bohm and F. David Peat. It was published in 1987, and I find that it anticipates and/or echoes many of the thoughts in my previous Pencils essays, particularly the “Reality” series and my discussion of Metaphors. 

            The fundamental focus of the book, though, is on creativity. I am wholly in agreement on their basic point: creativity is mental play, and everyone is capable of it. 

            They make the point that there is a tendency for us to believe that only a few people, perhaps the geniuses, are creative, when in fact, creativity has nothing to do with intelligence. Everyone plays. There are many ways in which people assume they are not creative. I think the most pervasive is the prejudice against play by adults. 

            Life is a balance of many kinds, among them the balance between being responsible, “keeping things together”, and being carefree, “letting things go”. We need both: not both kinds of people, but both types of activity in every individual life. 

            We must give our children permission to remain childlike as they grow. There’s not much difficulty in that really. None of us are actually adults in the way we thought of adults when we were children. That person who always knows what to do and is completely assimilated into the reality of living in this world doesn’t exist. Some of us pretend at it better than others, but, come on, it’s still just pretend! 

            Mental play involves taking things or ideas or concepts that “everyone knows” and making up new things to take their place (or just to add to them). What would that look like? Most of this will lead nowhere useful, but it’s fun! That’s enough reason to do it. Useful doesn’t have a place in the world of play. 

            Let your mind roam free over your internal universe. Put yourself and your friends in that universe. What stories happen? Think of a character (maybe an alien), pair him or her (or it or ?) with others. What new stories happen now? 

            When you come back to “reality”, maybe all you have is a fun memory.  But isn’t that a wonderful thing to have to take with you into your life? 

            None of this should be read as advocating belief in “alternative facts” just because they are convenient or desirable. If your made-up dreams just won’t match up with reality, let them go and go onto the next one. One day, though, some dream of something that isn’t “real” will stay with you. You may even try to forget it then find it coming back to you and taking you further and further down its path. This is the kind of play that eventually leads to your dream becoming real. This takes real world qualities like patience, determination, and abilities commensurate with your task. But if your dream won’t leave you, I’ll bet you won’t leave it either. Don’t let anyone in your life, past or present or future, dissuade you from this kind of dream. 

            Even if you don’t get to finish your dream, at the end of your life you will feel a certain satisfaction that you lived it. And maybe you have inspired someone else to pick it up. Such dreams don’t die. Honor them with your life. 

            Whoever you are, whatever you think of your limitations and abilities, you can play, you can dream, and you can do it. 

Hugh Moffatt 
Watertown, Massachusetts 
December 27, 2019