What we imagine, is a tiny glimpse of possibility. Sometimes, we imagine something which we want to see, or see something which is not really there. Just a figment of imagination. Sometimes, our minds take us places which our bodies might never get to experience. Other times, our bodies experience what our minds cannot comprehend. How does one reconcile? How can you make someting which you think, become?
Since the first generations of wise apes (Homo Sapiens – animal belonging to the genus called Homo; sapiens = latin for wise) one fundamentally important characteristic made us stand out from all other animals. Our ability to imagine. The ability of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before seen or perceived in reality. This is our absolute advantage which brought us dominium over this planet. Sure, the ability to use tools or to communicate are also important fundamentals. But these traits are not unique to us. Many other species use tools, like apes or birds. Same goes for basic communication. Leaving aside body language, different combinations of sounds make up for basic communication for some apes for example. However, what complemented these abilities and took them to the next level was our ability to imagine.
There are many interesting theories (or hypothesis) of how we might have struck this evolutionary jackpot. One of my personal favorites is the stoned ape theory. However, in reality no one really knows for sure. Imagination is responsible for remarkable evolutionary advantages. It complemented our ability to make tools, to form spoken language, to plan and of course later on to invent writing etcetera etcetera. As evolutionary building blocks go, one complements the other and in order to grow tall you have to stack up these magical abilities which I believe derive from one another.
To become the amazing civilization which we are today, another key fundamental is cooperation. Sure, many species cooperate. But they always fail at scaling up. Animals are usually organized in small packs, bands or groups. They come together and from intimate relations which help them thrive. Their cooperation can help overcome many survival obstacles. In the end everyone follows their own personal interest. Although some animals are social, they do that as means of survival. The basic ingredient for this organised cooperation is mutual trust. In the animal reign trust is gained by forming intimate relations with all the members in a particular band. Studies have shown that there are clear limitations to the size of a particular band. Sapiens groups larger than 150 individuals cannot form intimate relationships with each member of the group.
Belief took imagination and cooperation to the next level. Imagination gave birth to myths which were shared by members of a particular tribe. If a story is particularly good and compelling it has the power to transcend and break barriers. From small tribes to great civilizations, all find root in myths wich are shared in the collective imagination of the individuals. Belief is the glue which keeps it all together. Religion is the most basic example of something imagined which brings mass collective cooperation which can prove to be productive or destructive. Money is another important invention of the mind. One must be naive to really believe that the colourful paper bills or the more recent digital bits on a server (which account for the money in your bank account) are an actual manifestation of value. The value is stored in our collective imagination. Money represents just a mere token of value which has changed and continues to change over time. It has evolved from material tokens such as grains, salt, coins, bills to even more abstract elements such as numbers on a ledger which was physical in the old days and digital today. Only (approx.) 10% of the total amount of money in the world are physical, all the rest are just numbers on a server.
Can you make something, out of nothing?
Can you make fire, from ice?
Imagination, cooperation and belief (or similar, trust) are the magical ingredients of alchemy. As above so below. Both on a macro level, building great pyramids or empires as well as on a micro level, a friendship or an everlasting marriage, we must combine these elements to succeed. The feelings and emotions which sprout from these mental faculties make the fire which causes us to burn with desire and motivation. If the stories we tell each other are powerful enough and are matched by our devoted belief we can make something out of nothing. We can make fire from ice.