Experience of Imagination

James Taylor wrote a song called, “Carolina In My Mind,” asking two questions:

“Can’t you feel the sunshine? Can’t you just see the moonshine?”

The chorus ends with the words, “I’m goin’ to Carolina in my mind.”

Have you ever been transported to another time as you became lost in a powerfully written book, or suddenly relocated to another environment by imagining yourself there? Have you ever found yourself totally immersed in a world created by an especially captivating motion picture? Our mental projection into those thoughts and feelings during those experiences often make it seem as though we are actually “experiencing” those imaginings, although they actually have only a virtual existence and not a physical one.

In some instances, depending on the richness of the imagination which produces the experience, as well as how thoroughly the virtual world being experienced resembles or models the actual world, the mental activity in our brains which registers the sensory input and combines with our central nervous system to inform the brain of what is transpiring, can sometimes produce remarkably vivid experiential responses that compare well with actually being in a particular location having that experience. Indeed, what transpires in our minds during experiential awareness of our journey can occasionally seem less real than our imagined journey, lacking some degree of fulfillment of our expectations.

Flight simulators, three-dimensional virtual worlds, and vivid imagining can produce or invoke an experience that is virtually indistinguishable to our “approximating” brain, and depending on how long we are immersed in our imagined or virtual world, and are able to allow ourselves to “escape” physical reality, the “imagined” world can become “substantial,” and the substance of the physical world can be rendered “invisible.”

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth — American painter, born 1917)
1948 The Museum of Modern Art, New York Tempera

Artists and poets can sometimes evoke an experience of a moment in another world by presenting us with the most essential markers of an experience, which we then use to “fill in the rest.” Andrew Wyeth was particularly talented in this way.

Over recorded time, various intellectual and spiritual movements have evoked elements of the entire spectrum of inner human life. (One may wish to describe the “intellectual” in empirical terms and the “spiritual” in metaphysical terms, but both represent identically “non-physical” aspects of inner human life.“) Our “inner” lives are not necessarily located inside our bodies per Se. While the brain is clearly encapsulated within the skull, our intellectual life is equally invisible when compared to our spiritual life, and is not limited to residing only in the skull. We “travel” with our minds and transport ourselves with our thoughts to realms where physical reality may not be able to takes us readily–the future–across the galaxy–to worlds without tangible existence–but we utilize many of the same mental structures and processes when we experience physical reality.

….more to come.

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2 comments

  1. betterlivingthroughscience

    Very interesting (for me) that you used ‘Christina’s World’ as an example of what you are talking about in this post. I adore this painting, and have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw a print of it, nearly 20 years ago. I had a poster of it on the wall of my various student hovels all the way through college.

    • jjhiii24

      I have been an admirer of Andrew Wyeth for many years and recently attended an exhibition of his work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art which was an enormously compelling collection of his paintings called “Memory and Magic,” which were inspired by the people and objects that existed where he lived in Chadds Ford, PA.

      The experience of Wyeth’s imagination was visceral and came alive for me personally both in the museum in Philadelphia and in the Brandywine River Museum. The rendering of Christina’s World,” is currently the subject of an exhibition in Rockland, Maine at the Farnsworth, where many of the preparatory drawings will be on display. The original is still in New York, but here is a link to the exhibit in Maine:

      http://www.farnsworthmuseum.org/exhibition/andrew-wyeth-christina-s-world-and-olson-house

      Cheers……John H.

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