58 / We're All Cloud Makers

For F*ture's Sake!

Hi and welcome to a festive(ish) edition of For F*ture’s Sake!

Reading time: 3 minutes

We all dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

- T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The Poolbeg Towers are Dublin City’s famed, candy-striped — but hardly eye-candy — chimney stacks. They were built long ago, to keep the city’s lights on. 

These two spikes in a horseshoe bay, offer scant visual relief to the grey sky into which they rise, or the dishwater bay over which they loom. But they are icons nonetheless — adorning postcards, tea towels and posters galore. Dubliners either love them or hate them.

I love them.

As a child, my father insisted Ireland’s tallest structures were cloud makers. This mesmerised me. And with Dublin Bay’s infinite sky, and the vast array of clouds it demanded, this made complete sense. These towering pipe dreams needed to be colossal, but not just to oblige my father’s charming white lie.

Peering out my bedroom window, or lying supine on a patch of garden grass, I would imagine — or better yet, since they’re visible throughout much of Dublin — I would witness first hand, these puffing pillars making clouds. 

I would gaze up and let the air mock my eyes.

I'd see all sorts of chance events; a yawning space hopper, a giraffe with a funny gait, the face of a squinting pirate. I would witness vapour become a kissing couple, or a monkey in a fit of rage. And, if the clouds were fast moving, the scenes might briefly animate, before melding into something else.

Coming of age

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

- George Bernard Shaw

As children, over time, we too meld into something else — grown-ups! And during this transformation, an almost complete, but gradual, inversion of this creative bliss occurs.

Much of our capacity to imagine quietens. Imagination begins to feel like a precious and increasingly rare thing.

Cautionary tales from elders and wider society creates timidity and comformity. They say; "you need to find a permanent, pensionable job" and "you must become a productive member of society.” 

Many adults find themselves blinking in a twilight world of what ifs and regrets.

The power of imagination

Imagination is undervalued, and yet, it’s the fount of all achievement. It's the foundation of every invention, innovation and change. Every tool we use, every human right we take for granted, came first, from someone’s head.

Steve jobs envisioned a world unbounded by limitations, Martin Luther King had a dream.

At first, their dreams seemed fantastical. They were eviscerated by naysayers, cynics and rationalists.

But this is where misanthropes tend to miss a trick: Possibilities aren’t limited to the tangible, the knowable and the negotiable. They extend to our values and feelings too. 

Encircle the world

Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

- Albert Einstein

Ironically, we currently live in a world that demands we reimagine everything, but we've been given the worst possible conditions in which to do so.

If your basic needs aren't met; if you're anxious, stressed, traumatised, lonely, or poor — if you experience systemic racism or social exclusion, living an imaginative life is challenging.

So, however idealistic, naive or ludicrous our conceptions might seem — persevere, if possible. Otherwise, from where else can we find reason to set our compass, to muster enthusiasm, or measure progress?

We need our imaginations now, more than ever. Not to escape reality, but to embrace it — to refuse to let the madness, the busyness, the roughness, dim our imaginations.

We need our imaginations now, more than ever, to allow ourselves conjour up the most fantastic possibilities, and pull the present forward to meet them. 

Happy Christmas everyone - Scott