In chapter 8 Storr talks about how isolation or separation of a child from either parent, especially the mother, at a young age can often spur on the growth of the imagination. Once again our learned psychiatrist adduces case studies of litrerary figures from the past. He is on interesting ground here as far as I am concerned as I am steeped in literature myself. However, perhaps his examples are a little too literary for the ordinary run-of-the-mill reader and, therefore, here I would like to recount a case of an ordinary boy whom I am teaching at school. Let's call him James (a pseudonym). Recently I had the occasion to call upon a teacher friend of mine who is principal of the primary school which James attended. He told me several stories about James' early life, and they were heart-rending to hear.
|Mathew's Bookshelves: Paris, Easter 2007|
Anyway, as a teacher I am a fervent believer in the power of the imagination to captivate even the weakest and boldest of children and that when they are encouraged to dream and imagine that there are multiple possibilities to what life can offer us, that things don't have to be a sorry repetition for us of the painful experiences of the past. However, all this idealism, which at 52 I am still trying to keep alive in me, is hard against the backdrop of the cutbacks (and how these really effect the poorest of the poor most essentially) can be dispiriting for even the most positive and optimistic of teachers.
|Candles at St Germain de Pres, Paris, Easter 2007|
The idea that the development of imagination and invention in these writers began as compensation for the absence or severance of intimate attachments carries with it the implication that such development is second best; a poor substitute for the close, loving relationships which they should have enjoyed. In early childhood this is probably the case. Nothing can entirely compensate for the absence of intimate attachments in the very young. However, what began as compensation for deprivation became a rewarding way of life. All of these writers were successful, in spite of the emotional scars they bore. (Solitude, p. 122)What interests me here is that an approach to teaching that embraces the imagination can be life-saving for an abused child. Of course, we are not social workers or youth workers, but education can be liberating and freeing. The great Irish short story writer Bryan MacMahon who spent all of his life teaching firmly believed in the educative role of the imagination. I firmly believe this, too. With the likes of Dr Anthony Storr and other great psychotherapists and all deeply humane people I, too, believe in the possibilities of the imagination to allow the individual child to believe in him/herself, to believe that they are worthwhile in themselves, that they can make a difference to society or that they, simply, can heal their troubled souls in the embrace of a powerfully loving imagination. I am a romantic at heart because the modernist and post-modernist imaginations will fail us in these goals, because the are too pessimistic to suggest the possibility of any change.