Photo: Jonas Hafneraufzehengehen.de
An elaborate kiddie playground geared with a large wooden fort intersected my jogging trail. I meant to jog past it, but a gust of curiosity blew me off course and into the fortress. I stepped into the bark dust and made my way up the wooden steps, trying with difficulty to remember what one does inside of this contraption of slides, steps, and bridge-like passages. I meandered through, trying to understand how such a thing holds children captive for hours as they exert their energy with insurmountable pleasure and endless joy.
I walked over the teetering bridge connecting the two wings of the fort, trying hard to deduce which quality disappears when kids grow older. Just then a few vibrant children whiz past me and the mystery unravels. Imagination! It is not the playground that captivates, but what they create of it in their young minds. It becomes a beautiful world as they act the princes, and become the Princess, or turn into heroes, or bandits.
A little imagination sprinkled over a wooden fort is like fairy-dust tossed on Cinderella’s pumpkin. The stale playground transforms into a magical kingdom full of secret passages and daring escapes where anything could happen— and just about everything does happen. Imagination is the thing that is lost when reality makes things impossible and reason dilutes the magic.
I stifled the voice of reason and let my imagination run wild. I compared my world to the wooden playground and myself to a child playing in it. In my mind, I did not become a hero or a princess, but I became something better, I became the height of myself— in my mind, I reached the maximum potential of what I am and my world reached the height of what it is building up to be.
Nothing around me changed. I was still standing on the teetering bridge of a wooden fort, yet as I imagined, I received insurmountable pleasure and endless joy because I was using my imagination. Not to create things outside of myself as adults do— but to recreate myself and my world inside of me.