The squad included a sorcerer, warrior, paladin, barbarian, cleric, and rogue. They sauntered up to the bartender and ordered a round of ale. Strangers to the city of Phandalin, the bartender suspiciously sized them up until the cleric pulled out a large pouch of gold and set it on the counter. The bartender relaxed. As the night stretched on, he told tales of gnomes, goblins and hidden treasure in the Sword Mountains just out of town. He cautioned the travelers to be on the lookout for dragons as they have recently been spotted in the area. With any luck, they would find a magical item that could help defeat dragons along their journey.
Danger and excitement gripped the group. After paying the bartender for their stouts of ale, they reclined to their rooms for the night. Their quest would begin at dawn's first light. But for now, they would rest.
In middle school, I loved reading "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Brilliantly written, they were captivating, thrusting each reader in the center of a great adventure. Every decision determined the outcome of each story. It was thrilling to not only read about other characters going on these marvelous quests but instead, to insert myself into the story. It fueled my imagination in a way little else could.
Until Dungeons and Dragons.
I remember my older brother getting involved in the fantasy role-playing game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) when he was in high school. While he preferred playing with friends his age, occasionally he would prepare quests for my sister and me, crowning him dungeon master. Games would last hours, sometimes spanning over a few days. Eventually, we stopped playing. Other high school interests, boys I suppose, stole my focus. And until lately, I haven't found myself so consumed with fantasy fiction as I was back in middle and high school.
Billions of dollars are poured into the entertainment industry for our enjoyment. Video games, blockbuster movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter movies, and epic TV shows like Game of Thrones amaze us, keep us captivated and wanting more. Every detail is considered, from costumes to set design, from musical scores to character development. We are drawn in, thirsty for the next plot twist; celebrating the demise of the antagonist and rooting on the most unlikely of heroes.
A Lost Art?
This past Christmas our son received his first D&D game. He'd been interested in the game for a while, but maybe thought he was too old to get started in a game that's been around forever. The truth is, you're never too old to enjoy a fantastical adventure.
We recently played D&D as a family, with my son being the dungeon master. I was eager to get back into it, and more so when I understood the excitement on my son's face. He wanted to introduce all of us to this new type of gameplay and poured hours into preparing our family's first quest. I wish I could say his brothers were equally excited. They weren't.
Of course, they stuck it out with meager enthusiasm. I give them credit for trying. They could see it was important to their brother. But sitting around a table rolling dice, imagining characters fighting epic monsters wasn't captivating. Why would it be? We are inundated with visual stimulation everywhere. And it brought to light a chilling thought.
Have we lost the ability to use our imagination?
Imagination is Not Just Child's Play
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” — Albert Einstein
There is a correlation between imagination and creativity, creativity and wonder, wonder and science. Many people associate imagination only with dreamers and creatives. And while it is easy to get swept up in music and art, imagination doesn't stop there. Our great inventors imagined a different type of world, constantly turning their thoughts, ideas and whimsical fantasies into realities. They created the world we now live in. Without imagination we might still be sitting in rooms lit only by candlelight, writing manuscripts on parchment and playing with rocks and sticks.
But the advantages of an imaginative mind go beyond inventions. I was an early childhood educator for 10 years. An important part of our curriculum involved imaginative play. We had boxes of costumes for dress up, blocks for building, a kitchen area for cooking, easels for painting and a library for gazing at whimsical illustrations if students were unable to read the words.
These centers helped foster empathy, problem-solving, cooperation, and critical thinking; all skills that are equally important as adults. Additionally, when we tap into our imagination, we are able to reduce stress, improve memory and be happier.
“Our imagination it is our greatest ally . . . Imagination is a very, very powerful thing. It literally invents the path before you.” - Glen Hansard
A New Quest
It is appearing more and more likely we will continue to be social distancing for a while. Ask yourself, how many games of monopoly can you play? How many hours of Netflix can you binge? How many runs, walks or workouts can you do before your body collapses?
Maybe it's time to try something different and unleash the creative imagination inside you. Crayons and scissors aren't necessary, though you can if you want. And of course, I'd recommend glitter if you go that route.
Need to make a grocery store run? Nope! Instead, you dare to ride the iron dragon to market to save your family from famine while wearing your protective armor, of course.
Is it time to change the sheets on your bed? Of course not! Rather, rebuild your forts with blankets and sheets while conquering other kingdoms in your path!
Is your mother or best friend feeling bored and lonely stuck in their homes? Not a chance! Travel the treacherous internet road so you can zoom to the aid of your kinfolk locked in a dungeon for weeks on end.
Have you run out of beer and wine? No problem! Fight your way past goblins and trolls and rescue your king or queen by acquiring these priceless spirits. A worthy quest indeed!
Our adventures begin their quest at dawn's first light. When will you begin your next quest?