Wildest Imaginings

October 15, 2009

I’ve been rereading Roald Dahl’s (1964) book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dahl’s books often delight me, and I especially love this one and the two Willy Wonka movies it spawned. If you were here with me, I’d make you sing the Oompa Loompa song that I can’t get out of my head! In the movies, you don’t see what is written on Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket:

. . .I am preparing other surprises that are even more marvelous and more fantastic for you and for all my beloved golden ticket holders—mystic and marvelous surprises that will entrance, delight, intrigue, astonish, and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest imagination you could not imagine that such things could happen to you! Just wait and see! p. 54

As an artist and poet, that phrase, “wildest imagination” has always appealed to me. It resonates with me as a teacher too. Sometimes when I can’t get to sleep at night (often after a difficult day of teaching when I don’t feel I’ve done my best), I try to visualize the school of my wildest imagination, but it’s difficult. I get caught up in all the reasons why these imaginings couldn’t possibly become reality. I don’t enjoy wild imaginings in my work life as much as I like possible realities. If I’m going to take time to dream about the possible, I want it to be something that’s practical as well, something I will have some hope of achieving.

This is probably a personal flaw. I have always envied wild dreamers. I know that wild dreams can come true. But I am not one of those people. I am a mild dreamer. Despite being very creative, I remain grounded in pragmatic reality. This is a danger even though I believe it can also be a good thing for a creative person to keep her metaphorical feet on the ground.

Achieving a balance between dreams and reality is an important part of going back to—and staying in—school. Almost every student has to balance the aspirations hidden in her or his most secret heart with the realities of earning a living after graduation. I knew that I would not be happy as an engineer regardless of my aptitude for that career. I would love to make a living as a poet and an artist, but as a breadwinner, I need a paycheck I can count on.

I am fortunate. I love my work as a teacher. It adds depth and meaning to my life and allows me to feel that I am contributing something to the world. It’s not that I don’t believe that I contribute as an artist and as a poet, but rather that the results of my efforts as a teacher are more visible. The pragmatic realist in me needs that. I’m sure you’ve noticed, though, that I cannot resist adding poetry to this blog from time to time.

With apologies to Mr. Dahl:

Oompa loompa doompadee doo
I need a job with meaning, do you?
Oompa loompa doompada dee
If you could be anything, what would you be?

Think of something that would be wonderful, then set about making it possible.
• Armand Hammer


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