Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child: Concluding Thoughts

As soon as I saw the title I knew I wanted to get my hands on this book. As a mother of three young children, it is a subject of particular interest, and it did not disappoint.

In this book, the imagination is more than just the creative part of the brain that comes up with arts and crafts or cute stories. It is a capacity to think and feel, to love, to stand for something, to strive for something. It is seeing life as more than profit and loss and a bottom line. To have an imagination is to be truly human, able to accomplish the truly great. It is to see that the ordinary all around us is really extraordinary and to be brave enough to face it. A person like that will rise above mediocrity and will not be swayed by every passing whim of the masses. He will live a life, not of buying and consuming, but of ultimate meaning.

Anthony Esolen addresses this subject from the opposite angle. Like C. S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters, he uses the voice of the “bad guys,” leaving his readers to infer what not to do. A brilliant method, really, because I wouldn’t want some guy from Rhode Island telling me how to inspire greatness in my children. What does he know about our circumstances and their personalities? Instead, he demonstrates trends in the modernity and materialism of our day that eat away at creative capacities while still managing to avoid sounding like a conspiracy theorist.

This book is not an organized, bullet pointed, well-defined dissertation. Think of it more as a ramble in the woods or a hike in the mountains. The author is very well-read and he includes many examples and illustrations from history and literature as well as stories from his own experiences. As a professor of medieval and renaissance literature, he favors Dante and others from that period and he often looks to the ancient Greeks as well. Personally I thought he used a few too many “good old days” anecdotes. Using a “show, don’t tell” approach, all these examples take up a good chunk of the book and it’s easy to lose his point in the midst of them. But once again, would we really want him to just tell us what to do?

Even if the book overall is a bit jumbled, it’s an important topic and well-worth wading through even if you prefer your information a bit more systematic. If you are like me and you enjoy hopping on a train of thought and seeing where it takes you, then I guarantee you’ll love this book.

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