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When I was a little girl, I often was conscious of living life in my imagination. I might be walking up the driveway from the school bus in reality, but in my imagination I had suddenly become Aragorn the Ranger, and my noisy siblings just ahead of me probably couldn’t even see or sense my stealthy, long-legged presence behind them.
I might be trailing through the mall behind my mother as we boringly shopped the sales for school shoes, but in my imagination I was Laura Ingalls, providing a running commentary on everything of any interest around us for my blind sister Mary.
Usually, this was harmless, but the day that in my imagination I was Louis Braille, learning how to negotiate the world with no sight, I ended up falling down the basement stairs and giving myself a concussion. I learned a couple of things that day. First, and most important, that the stairs are a little closer than I thought they were to the kitchen door. Second, that careful observation does not mean familiarity with. Sometimes we are completely clueless about things we see all the time or think we know very well. Pay attention!
As I got older, I often faced problems as I imagined my heroes or heroines would have done. As a serious-minded Catholic, I have been trained to look to the life of Christ but also his saints for inspiration on how to live correctly, and I also look to the characters in my imagination. How would they react to certain things? What would they do?
As a middle-aged woman, my imagination feels a lot less nimble than it did when I was 10. I cannot inhabit a character in my own head the way I could then, although I still love playacting and reading aloud, because it gives me a chance to do voices of various characters, which I excell at.
Rather than live as the characters in my imagination, I have become their companion. They are like a crowd of friends in the back my head, offering commentary on my actions. I find myself concerned over what they might think of me as I make choices in my life. Am I a character my favorite characters would like or admire?