Imaginings about imaginary imagination, tulips and climate

I have always been fascinated by the human ability to make what we imagine seem real. And then to take that reality and imagine something else built on it, and so on.

A beautiful picture from the other week of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.
A beautiful picture of Earth from 1.6 million km sunwards. NASA, public domain.

Eventually, we build a ‘reality’ that is built not on physical evidence, but on our chain of imagined concepts – which society picks up and runs with, as if it were real. Recursive thought of this kind infuses itself into all walks of everyday life, often without our even considering we’re treating as physically ‘real’ something that is in fact a product of our thoughts.

I’m not just talking about fiction – be it books, movies, plays or whatever – but about other outcomes of this style of thinking. You know – where somebody starts from a premise and builds a structure atop it, and where that structure gains social traction, whether real or not.

That’s how a lot of our social systems and structures work. Sometimes that can lead us down curious paths, as the Dutch found out in the early 1600s when they thought they could build wealth from tulip bulbs.

I took this from the Damrack using Fujicolor Superia 200 asa film. Not the narrowest buildings in Amsterdam, but they're up there...
Amsterdam houses. I took this from the Damrack using Fujicolor Superia 200 asa film. Not the narrowest buildings in Amsterdam, but they’re up there…

If we delve down to the basic causes of this sort of adventure, it flows from the way we imagine things, and with the way that imagined concept is then shared – in this case, with the social concept of value placed on tulip bulbs. For a while, Dutch society was gripped by it.

There are all sorts of other ways our recursive imagination, and our ability to apply that to societies, affects the human world.

Thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


One thought on “Imaginings about imaginary imagination, tulips and climate

  1. Great post! This is such a fascinating concept, because it’s so prevalent and yet we rarely think of it. As you said with the Dutch Tulip trend, it’s all about influencing perceptions- and it can work for a while. What’s fascinating though, is how often there’s a backlash against these ideas. The prime example that comes to mind is what’s going on in the fashion industry right now, as countries start to ban too thin models. No matter how much they try to sell these ideas, there is always a breaking point when people have to face reality. (Although, the fashion industry isn’t the best example, because it has a built in system of never having to sell ideas for too long- every season they make something uncool, cool and vice versa. It’s a very clever way of selling people ideas en masse, but not having to depend on it being real for too long, so there’s rarely a backlash. But I digress)
    By the way, I’ve nominated you for the Best Advice category in the 2015 Blogger awards🙂

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