Martin Webb: The power of imagination
I found myself devastated by Sage Crawford’s death in our community, occurring on county soil, her life bleeding away into our dirt. I can’t fathom the grief of her children. My eyes lost their vision with tears. I feel absolutely heartbroken for every individual in our community directly involved in the situation, in any capacity.
And I am heartbroken for us, as a community. In reflecting on what this can mean for us, I’ve come to some conclusions, one in particular. This event — culminating tragically in the death of a young single mother needing help — shows the absolute unmatched power of the human imagination.
None of what occurred would have happened without a collective exercise in imagination, in a chain reaction.
Assigning no harsh judgment below, it shows how if we let our imaginations take over, innocently perhaps and with the best intentions, bundled all together and snowballing they can lead to horrific results:
Someone had to imagine her situation, as they drove by, in fleeting moments, had to guess her state of mind. Someone used their imagination to create a scenario around the children, about imminent danger.
Someone had to imagine she was an under-the-influence delinquent, not someone suffering from a shortage of mental health medication, and/or simply a disability.
Someone imagined it would be best to call the cops or call 911 on the situation. Ironically and tragically, while some imagined worst case scenarios, others (based on the same circumstances) perhaps under-imagined, unable to imagine why it wouldn’t be OK to send two armored and weaponized men dressed for violence to confront a seemingly erratic roadside single mother with two children.
After that, someone unknowingly under-imagined it would be perfectly OK to approach her in the manner they did.
Someone else over-imagined “these cops plan to attack me,” posing a threat to their life.
Lastly — in a moment of horrific finality to the chain imagination train barreling out of control — someone imagined that she was such a grave threat to another’s life she needed to be killed immediately.
We’ll never know if any of that was accurate. Imagination got the final say. Maybe, just maybe, everyone indeed imagined the exact truth correctly.
Regardless, it was a game of telephone, imagination piled on top of imagination, with the unfortunate key checkpoints being led by some of the most extreme imagined scenarios by the participants involved, imagining the situation as either too casual or too jacked up.
And it killed Sage Crawford. A collective exercise in community imagination, with everyone involved playing an unintended part. What it says to us, upon reflection: It shows the absurdly amazing strong power of our imagination and what it can do. As a matter of fact, one need look no farther than 10 to 20 feet in any direction to see the power of imagination at work.
Everything around you was once just an idea. All of it. It was all once locked in someone’s imagination. That device you’re using? Once an idea in someone’s head. The newspaper you’re reading? Started with an idea. That window? An idea once. The wall? The light? Your clothes? Your glasses? Vitamins? Coffee? All ideas from the past.
That car you drive? The headlight on it? The sandwich that fed the woman that designed the headlights? The wrapper the sandwich came in? The logo on the wrapper? All just different ideas people had. And then you drive around in all those ideas. All imaginations, coming to life.
Everything human-made-or-processed — from politics to toothpaste — was once just a ’lil ol’ idea. Someone up and imagined … one day, there it is. We’re all walking around in a world populated and propelled by the 3D renderings of the imaginations of others.
And while fertile imaginations allowed to race to extremes can indeed lead to death, it is helpful to know that our own imagination has such immense power. Because this means we can equally put it hard to work imagining a better world.
We can imagine overcoming divides created for political gain and nothing else. We can imagine being a healthier community, in both mental and physical ways. We can imagine helping each other, and being there in ways that improve the lives of all.
We can imagine catching women like Sage Crawford, and helping them find peace for their family, which is what we all want.
This should teach us that we can choose to imagine the community we want. And that our daily individual small “innocent” imaginations add up to define the possibilities for our community and what we imagine it to be, and who the people are, that we imagine we live with.
We can let our imaginations run wild, allowing them to be stirred up by fears and “otherism,” mostly provoked by out of town political vultures and cynics who really don’t even know us.
Or we can feed our imaginations a good diet of positive optimism, paired with hard reality and compassion, training ourselves to be more in balance with our fellow community members, knowing when to correctly imagine things around us aren’t so bad, and when to correctly imagine things could perhaps be more dire than we think.
If we had to imagine a different outcome, what would it look like? I’d like to imagine we wouldn’t want this to happen again.
Martin Webb is a writer living in Penn Valley.
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