Imagination Is Optional

by Chris

We want to be overtaken by media. And look where we’ve gotten.

Movie theaters eight stories tall. World-destroying sound systems. 5k size images nearly practical.

We find breathtaking detail in video games. In Skyrim you just want to look at the scenery. You let the game anesthetize you into a dream state where reality ceases to matter. You could say we live our stories, melding into them. It’s become half vicarious, half not.

But we don’t live our stories. We immerse ourselves in them, sure, but not so far that life becomes the same as media.

Who knows what stories will look like in a hundred years? Maybe reality will become story. Entertainment turns into life, and life entertainment.

As I type this, I’m sitting by a bookshelf, contemplating the power in words. The work we do as fiction writers, the vital work of conjuring new realities, seems immutable. And to us it is a labor intensive task. We require immense imagination to create great objects of the mind.

Movies, television, video games — they turn off the imagination like water over a wicked witch. But they do immerse us. Imagination is optional.

Maybe books aren’t being usurped by movies and television. Maybe our collective lack of free time is usurping them, and this time sapped state causes a new kind of pain we can’t adequately describe. It’s a strained, new life that requires new types of culture to let us assimilate our experiences.

From this strained life comes a medicine: the new entertainment.