Growing up I was a warrior. Books like the Lord of the Rings fueled my imagination. With lumber, cardboard, and duck-tape I recreated Middle Earth as best as I could. And aspiring to be like a hero from the Trilogy fostered an adventurous spirit within me very young – I believe.
As I grew older my wardrobe transitioned from homemade suits of armor to more common garments, and my mind transitioned too. My raw creativity that came from imagination at play dulled down and I became more conservative. It’s a transition that was necessary, but constantly during my young adult life do I find myself trying to tap back in to that source of shameless creativity I once enjoyed for inspiration.
“We can only image things that we already know”
The quote above came to mind a few months ago at a time when I was attempting to write a fiction novel (that I have yet to work on since). I was struggling because I felt unoriginal – as though all my ideas were being taken from other works I had read. So I gave myself a few days to think up a theme, plot, or character that I’d never heard of before – I couldn’t.
Try it – thinking of something you’ve never seen or heard of before. It’s an impossible feat for you, me, and everyone else to do. For everything that we think, way we act, and thing we create is only an abstraction of something else that we’ve encountered. And while some people have a gift above others for abstract thought, we all draw inspiration from nowhere else but our own experiences.
Earlier today I drove out of Lisbon, Portugal heading North East. There is an old village that I wanted to visit named Monsanto. I had seen a picture of one of its streets months ago, and scribed it onto my bucket-list moments after. And today I checked the box next to it’s name.
Monsanto is a fairytale. A village built amongst, and into, colossal boulders on the upper slope of a hill that can be seen from very far away. Thick green moss pads the street’s stone walls on which chiseled washboards and water bins sit. It is an old town – not a single citizen appearing younger than sixty – and so quite that a whisper can be heard from blocks away.
We can only imagine the things that we already know, and when visiting places like Monsanto I feel as though I’m glimpsing into a source that influenced some of the worlds greatest stories. It’s hard for me to see such places for what they are because they’re so stimulating to my imagination that I nearly hallucinate – picturing creatures, colors, people, and emotions that are only present in my mind.
It’s similar to a sunset – you almost never see it as it is. Instead you become entranced as the golden rays intensify and you wonder what force in nature could be such an artist. And in the end you over-saturate your memory of it – making it ever more beautiful and unrealistic.