We’ve Lost the Key

Nobody plays cowboys and Indians anymore,
We’ve lost the key that opens that door;
Nobody fights pirates on a far exotic shore,
Or rescues damsels of round table lore;
No one rides a stick horse anymore,
We’ve lost the key that opens that door.

Cardboard rockets don’t fly to the moon anymore,
We’ve lost the key that opens that door;
We can’t play without worrying about the score,
Or draw and play hop-scotch on the carport floor;
There are no more galaxies for us to explore,
We’ve lost the key that opens that door.

Tethered to a box by an electrical cord,
Without video games we’re grouchy and bored;
Thumbs in great shape the body ignored,
Digital numbers and beeps our coveted reward;
Nobody plays cowboys and Indians anymore,
We’ve lost the key that opens that door.

When was the last time you saw children entertain themselves without their faces glued to a television or a video game screen?  Without television, computers, electronic tablets or video games, today’s children are lost when it comes to knowing how to play and use their imagination.  It is like they are waiting for orders or directions on how to play; they have forgotten how to play on their own.  Most people point to electronic devices as the culprits, but of course, the problem is as much a parental problem as it is a problem with the electronics.  However, regardless of who or what is to blame, it is clear that children no longer know how to play or use their imaginations.

In today’s world, new ideas, images and even concepts are created for children inside the video consoles where many of them spend as much as 13 to 22 hours of their lives each week.  They spend far more time connected to electronic stimulation than they do connected to human stimulation such as family and friends.  Why think or be creative when there is an electronic box that can do it for you?  Why chance being ignored, put down, bullied, or unloved, when the machine can create a perception of reality in which the child is the center of a universe filled with hope, love, and even revenge against those who would hurt him.  The problem arises when the child can no longer separate the reality of the machine world from true reality.  For the child, the video world becomes an escape from the problems of the world in which he lives, and the machine becomes dominant in his life causing his imagination to become passive, lethargic, and eventually non-existent.  As the child grows lazy and more dependent on the machine, the machine supplies all the stimulation his brain needs, and he actually loses touch with what are some of the most important aspects of being human – the ability to imagine and the ability to recognize and command  his own reality.

A child creating an imaginative world in his backyard or on the playground is far different than a child being totally immersed in an imaginative world created by a machine.  On the playground, the child is surrounded by the real world, so even in the child’s most imaginative moments he maintains a certain degree of touch with reality.  However, for a child wrapped up in a machine created world, what is real and not real becomes blurred, and over prolonged periods of time the brain may begin to have difficulty distinguishing between real world reality and machine reality – continuously being connected to such stimuli can actually cause a child to lose touch with the reality of the real world outside the machine.  The machine takes over the imagination.  It creates a world in which there is no need for a young mind to reason or be creative.  Reasoning and creativity is manipulated, all the child needs to do is react to the embedded cues and be rewarded with the bells and whistles of mindless accomplishment.  I hesitate to call it brainwashing, but that is exactly what happens when a child’s imagination is replaced by the replicated cues and mathematical arrays of a machine.

Now I am not saying children should never play video games, but I am saying the amount of time they spend doing so should be closely monitored by parents.  When used properly, video games can be entertaining, educational, and stimulating in a positive way.  Games can help children visualize imaginative worlds in which they can use their own imagination to build on or enhance.  This is done through physical play or role playing.  In years past, children watched television and then went outside to play and recreate the worlds they had seen on television.  The TV stimulated the imagination, and then children acted on their imaginations to become the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, a Texas Ranger, Geronimo or whoever.  Today’s children are not given the same opportunity to act on their imagination – that is the difference.  The electronic devices not only stimulate the imagination, the devices become the imagination.  Active imagination is exchanged for passive imagination.

An active imagination is healthy; it maintains touch with reality while a passive imagination is created with little participatory interaction, which means reality can often become blurred.  An active imagination on the other hand exercises the brain, and it can take us anywhere in the world or the universe if we will just let go.  From an active imagination comes creativity that can change the world if we dare.  It has the power to reshape the continuum of time and the universe itself.  In fact, imagination and love may be humanity’s closest connections to God.  Imagination is God’s gift; it is love, faith, and compassion laid bare on the backs of sparrows rising to embrace the closest thing to immortality that we will ever know on this earth.  Imagination is the key to humanity; it is the key to the future of our children; it is the door through which the future of mankind has always traveled and must continue to travel.

Electronic media was not intended to replace the human imagination, but rather to help it expand.  However, rather than a vehicle to awaken our consciousness, we have allowed it to become a vehicle that, if not stopped, will slowly enslave us.  Parents do not need to completely deny children the use of electronic devices, but they do need to exercise their parental responsibilities and limit as well as monitor what their children are absorbing by way of these devices.  Children need time to exercise their imagination without stimuli from a machine.  They need time to exercise being creative and not have a machine be creative for them.  We cannot afford to allow our children to lose touch with their imagination.  We must help them find the key once more that will rekindle the imaginative fire within them.


©Jack Linton, June 15, 2014


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