Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Mon, March 18

Column: Inventors

We humans are born inventors.

And many of us did our best inventing when we were children. While some of us concocted boisterous games, wondrous kingdoms and glorious fairytales, other children imagined a gentle world in which parents didn’t yell, fight or hit and where everyone in the family had enough food to eat every day of the week.

As we matured from children to youths, we may have found our inventive nature discouraged. We were instructed to conform to new, unexamined behavior patterns, often outdated in terms of need or purpose, created by parents and others who “knew best.” While we yearned to invent, we were admonished to follow instructions, write to fit a designated mold, respond to questions with prescribed answers and treat people in the same way in which we observed our parents relating to others.

We learned there is an acceptable, approved way of doing, saying, even looking at things when adults are around.

We also learned that many adults were not really interested in our inventiveness. Growing up often meant relinquishing precious childhood worlds we imagined and leaving behind those creations that made our lives exciting. Adults communicated to us—in many ways—that we should “get down to business,” which, we learned, didn’t include the little fantasies our imaginations had created.

Most of us invented selves that conformed with what our parents wanted us to develop. We learned that who we were to become should not differ drastically from all those people who inhabited our immediate world. We were bracketed by admonitions to “follow the crowd, swim with the stream and do in Rome as the Romans do.” Adapting, accommodating, reconciling, assimilating and compromising became more than words as we entered the adult world.

For many of us the self we invented was designed to be safe, conforming and—sad to say—inconsequential. To get ahead, we learned “to get along.” We became rational, utilitarian, pragmatic, efficient and—dull. We convinced ourselves that as adults we must put behind us our frivolous, spirited, merry child-like games and behave in mature, prudent and sensible ways.

Then there were some of us who invented nasty, mean-spirited selves. Others invented self-righteous, egocentric selves. And there were those who developed glib, superficial selves to hide their insecurities.

Yet, many of us continued to dream and in those dreams we recreated and reinvented ourselves in ways that ennobled us. We explored paths that led to enlightenment, illumination and excitement. We became different individuals than who we used to be. Not totally, of course, but at least enough to give us inner satisfaction and enable us to enjoy the changes.

Of course, none of us reinvented ourselves alone. Our families and friends, along with the many, varied forces we encountered throughout our lives helped shape our redevelopment. And if we were lucky, we had teachers who taught us to improvise, and encouraged us to nurture our inventive spirit and develop imaginative approaches to problems and challenges.

And there were those precious teachers who encouraged us to dream. We shall never forget them.

The fact is, each of us is, to some degree, still a dreamer, still an inventor.

There is the hope that no matter our age our innate inventive spirit will be nurtured and rekindled; that some of those childhood dreams will become real again.

Henry David Thoreau wrote: “I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to lead that life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Imagination is common to inventors.

And that still means all of us!


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