When I was child one of my favorite toys was a series of action figures known as ‘the Johnny West series’. They were a series of 12 inch articulated plastic action figures centered around a Western theme. I don’t remember the names of all the human characters but there were some figures I’ll never forget. There was Thunderbolt and Thundercolt: a Mare and her foal. Then there was the pony Poncho, and the stallion Flame. When all my friends were playing with Barbie and Ken I was much more interested in Johnny West and his family. They had teeny, tiny clothes as well as guns and all the kitchen utensils required for a campfire. There were saddles and bridles and all the accoutrements necessary for the horses. It was heaven for a child with an imagination!
Playing outside in the grass with my action figures stirred my imagination and I believe it is responsible for my love of storytelling. I was not an only child and I had lots of friends but I loved nothing more than playing in the long grass in the back of our yard, just me and my imagination.
I worry about children nowadays. Their imagination is not their own. It is force fed to them through video games and 24 hour television. You don’t need to wonder what it’s like to camp in the Amazon because there is a video that shows you what it’s all about! I wonder what will happen when our ability to fantasize becomes stymied. We are starting to complain nowadays that the new movies we’re seeing are all special effects with very little substance. On the other hand we are also seeing a lot of rehashed movies. The story’s been told 100 times with different characters and in different locales but it’s the same story.
I remember when a new movie was cause for excitement. It truly was something that had never been seen before. Now people pick apart a movie and tell you exactly where they got each scene from, because it’s been done before. I find that sad. What happened to originality? What happened to children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians? What happened to imaginary friends? I remember climbing to the top of the hill behind my house and fantasizing that I was conquering the Alps. I can remember playing in a Creek near where I lived and fantasizing that I was an explorer in a section of the Nile that had never seen a white woman. Don’t you miss those days?
If we lose the ability to use our imagination our lives will become stunted. It is already showing signs of that. We cannot afford to lose fantasy and idealism. We need our children to dream, to have invisible friends, to carry the spark that we had when we were children. Never lose the whimsy. If we do I fear there’s no hope for a wondrous future.