“Imagining is within our power whenever we wish.”
Aristotle, On the Soul

Studying human nature often gives occasion for wonder and gratitude. This line from Aristotle really struck me.

We have been studying what he calls the interior sense powers. One of them is the power of imagination. Simply put, it is the power of retaining and recalling what our five exterior senses have perceived. It is also able rearrange, as we can be creative in forming new images. This latter ability is remarkable in itself.

Yet first of all we might wonder at our ability simply to retain images of what we have perceived. Anywhere and anytime I have available to me a store of things that I have seen, heard, and touched.

Astounding architecture, stunning scenes in nature: sunrises and sunsets, the woods in fall, a great oak in spring, a flourishing garden, a sow giving birth.

I think what makes me most grateful are the images I have of the people I love. My wife smiling. Each of my children as an infant, and a toddler, and a child… My parents and grandparents at various ages in various contexts. My friends, my teachers, and my students from long ago, and from last week.

Where would I be without them, and where would I be without their images that I retain? This latter is a key way they remain present to me. Imagination is such a wonder! I don’t know exactly where or how these images are stored. But I know they are always there for me, just one thought away.

Surely this power is not given to me so that I can escape to another time and place. It is given to me so that in a very real way I can continue to have in the present all that has been in the past.

~ ~ ~

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.

Image: Neuschwanstein castle, Bavaria. Built by King Ludwig II starting in 1869.

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