The Death of Imagination

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by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

What do Dick Beals, Ray Bradbury, Maurice Sendak, and Don Woods have in common? Unfortunately all these men passed away in the last month. Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction, died at age 91. He was one of the most prolific, revered and at the same time most censored authors of our century.

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.” –  Ray Bradbury

Maurice Sendak, children’s author and illustrator, boldly drew what was in his heart and generations fell in love with his creations, in spite of mid-century parents complaints of sinister influences in his work. He was 83.

“I believe there is no part of our lives, our adult as well as child life, when we’re not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young. Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do.” – Maurice Sendak

Kelsey-Woodlawn, Saskatoon, Canada image courtesy Scott Wood Fehr, Creative Commons

No one ever complained about Dick Beals being sinister. He was the voice of many cartoon characters, but most famously voiced the cutting-edge animation of the day with Speedy the Alka-Seltzer Boy and Davey of claymation cult favorite Davey and Goliath. He had a glandular condition that caused him to only grow to a height of 4′ 7″ and his voice to remain forever child-like. For someone wanting to have a career in broadcast radio, that could have been an obstacle. But Dick Beals was stubborn enough to pursue his dream and the rest is history.

“It is my way of life. I never did see me as small. God gave me a perfectly shaped, well-coordinated body. My approach has been to be as big as I had to be to achieve my goals.”   -Dick Beals

Don Woods was a local meteorologist who pioneered the use of radar for weather forecasting back in the 1950s here in the weather-challenged state of Oklahoma. He combined his love for meteorology and art and now his creations hang in the Smithsonian. Watch this video to hear how they first got weather radar on the air.

Just think, without Don we wouldn’t have Jim Cantore. Hmmm. 🙂

Four men who don’t really have much in common besides their time of death. Except they also all came of age in their respective fields during the 1950s, when Americans were breaking out of the boxes of technological and cultural expectations. All were innovative in their fields. Did they set out to be that way, was it the times in which they lived that spurred on their creative pursuits or were they just stubborn enough to follow their imagination, be themselves and let everyone else figure out where they fit in?

What if each day we all took the time to think “What if …” and then had the cojones to answer the question for ourselves? Will a modern creative innovator like Steve Jobs be an anomally in a population comfortable with following the path of least resistance? Interesting to imagine. Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Is imagination at risk in today’s wall-to-wall technological culture or does it help?

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2 thoughts on “The Death of Imagination

  1. I wonder if PJ Hoff in Chicago learned from Don Woods, or vice versa, or if they both came up with the artwork on their own? PJ had a whole stable of cartoon characters (Mr. Yellencus, The Vice President in Charge of Looking Out The Window, etc.). He figured out that he could make his characters move, using various contraptions made of string, masking tape and paper clips. All of which goes along with what you’re saying; that was a remarkable time of innovation and improvisation.

    I spend too much time staring at screens (the Kindle, the phone, the TV and the computer) and I know that I feel dopey and unmotivated when I do. I can just imagine what kids are going through.


  2. That’s what I wonder about the digital generation that will spend the majority of their time staring at screens. Will they just passively absorb or will it spur on their life curiosity and imagination? Of course, that’s what people said when television started influencing the culture. Time will tell I suppose.


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