A young man wearing a Pokemon hat, a plush pokemon and the red ball from the game around his belt. He looks sincere and centered, as if going onto an actual hunt. Behind him there are other people dressed in similar fashion and some tents, suggesting that he is at some kind of Pokemon community event.

想像力 (Imagination)

When moving to Taiwan I was at first surprised by the popularity of Pokemon Go. Many parks and museums have warning signs, “please stay away from the lawn” with a crossed-out Pokemon sign, or even “please mind the water basin, don’t fall!” (with what better be a powerful water Pokemon on the sign!) You can see people of all ages play it, it’s especially popular among the elders who this way make sure to get their daily steps in on their Apple Watches.

(“Uncle Pokemon” Chen San-yuan is famous for riding his pike around town with a fan of 67 mobile phones attached to it. Unfortunately, I haven’t met him yet!)

There is much to love about activities like this – beyond its obvious health and social advantages (compared to other mobile games). What touches me is the way it awakes imagination. Just imagine there are monsters and spirits everywhere that you can only see through a special mirror! Most of us used to do this when we were young, but many of us likely stopped for whatever reason. Maybe there were just too few spirits to hold up that believe? Or did we stop because it’s “childish”?

Imagination is something wonderful. The omnipresence of screens, images and maybe soon AI makes it a bit harder to keep it in our lives. Why imagine a scary forest if Stable Diffusion can show you one in a few seconds? And yet books, theater and conversations will likely keep our imagination alive for a long while. Music too is a great door into imagined worlds, especially symphonic poems like Strauss’ Alpine Symphony (and more recently but less complex, film scores).

But the peak expression of imagination is probably writing, improv theater or role play games. I loved to get lost in imaginary fantasy and sci-fi worlds in my youth, and faced with the question of going to the cinema or sitting around a table and imagine ourselves to be elves, knights, and magicians (or later cyberpunk trolls and hackers), my friends and I always decided for the latter option!

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