0. The Key To Unlocking Your Imagination 📬
The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.
– Henry David Thoreau (in his Journal)
With the publication of this book, the hidden key to unlocking your imagination is finally revealed, and placed within your reach, right there, to be precise:
The Harvest Moon Chronicles: Essays on Enriching the Imagination by Akram Ahmad (Programming Digressions.)
The seeds for this germane work were planted a while ago, seven years ago, to be precise. After an extensive gestation, tender cultivation, it is, fittingly enough, on a harvest moon that our trusty scythe has been deployed to reap the lush harvest that has sprung forth from the seeds that were sown years ago: Good things in life do take a long time. (Chicago—as in the music band, and not the lovely Windy City—I thank you for providing me with a leitmotif here.)
Hey, rather than theorize—though theory will always have its rightful place—this book takes the tack of illustrating with copious examples, and lavish illustrations to boot, what it means to enrich one’s imagination. Open the book, and embark on a fun-filled romp by way of a series of luxuriant jaunts—eight to be precise—which have been chronicled, time-lapse photography style, to bring out the undercurrents, the nuances, and thereby stretch your imagination the better, amplifying it many times over.
A book that manages to snag the words “Harvest Moon” as part of its title—and the book you hold has done exactly that—is bound to raise an eyebrow or two, leading you to wonder, “Why Harvest Moon?” And to which I gently respond with a question of my own: “Why not Harvest Moon?”
I say, it’s time to have some unfettered fun.
(And those fetching words, signifying sundry moonlit harvesting excursions are already sounding like fun.)
1. How Far Can Imagination Take Us ⛵
Let’s see how far our imagination can take us. We’ve already traveled far and wide—the book you hold, after all, comes on the heels of the following “travelogues” in this series:
- Dispatches from the Software Trenches
- Postcards From The Software Island
- Letters to a Software Practitioner
Why not keep the mojo working, and go farther still?
In full candor, and while the previous three books in The Programming Imagination Series can be read more profitably in a linear order, both book-wise and chapter-wise—and you can enjoy this one without having read any of them, though I recommend you read them all—the book you hold is freewheeling-enough that it can even be read from back to end. (Fancy that.)
2. What, Exactly, Do We Get? 🎁
And now a word on this critter called… Imagination.
So, how does one go about enriching one’s imagination? Does imagination—and, more importantly, our use of it—strike you as linear in nature?
More generally, isn’t imagination that thing people might consider only when, heaven forbid, their TV stops working, and positively not otherwise? And while imaginary tales have their own charm—I’ve been meaning to read An Imaginary Tale: The Story of √-1 by Paul J. Nahin (Princeton University Press), drawn to its altogether alluring and charming title—I hope you will find the chronicles captured in this book as ones that are firmly rooted in the concreteness of everyday life, give and take a bit.
Allow me to remind ourselves collectively of merely a handful of examples to back up my rhetorical question, the one having to do with imagination being a tad non-linear. Consider, for example:
- How the imaginary number—the square root of -1 or √-1 in radical form for you math aficionados, denoted by the Greek letter iota, and “i” for short—whose introduction directly led to a revolution in the engineering world, was initially pooh-poohed and dismissively slapped by Descartes as a derogatory term, deemed as fictitious and utterly useless until, that is, it (our poor, cowering, and understandably whimpering imaginary number “i”) was rescued and redeemed by the glorious work of ace mathematicians Euler, Cauchy, and Gauss.
- Or how the true legend of Kekulé—the scientist who saw in a dream a snake eating its own tail, and which led him, upon awakening from his dream—directly led to the monumental discovery of the benzene molecule’s structure, changing the world of organic chemistry forever. Think divergent thinking, and it’ll get us right up there with the imaginary tale of the radical √-1 we chatted up a minute ago.
- Or even how, for crying out loud, Einstein felt compelled to remark that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Enough said, amirite?
With that settled—that this critter called imagination is like a whirling dervish and no demure fly on the wall—let’s proceed with the tacit agreement that it (i.e. imagination) does deserve our undivided attention, what with it being decidedly non-linear, and warranting an approach that’s equally non-linear.
(What is eventually observable remains to be seen; what is to be tacitly understood will become clear in short order. Surely, we don’t have to bring in the specter of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, amirite?)
3. A Mitten, All Lit-Smitten 🐙
Relax. Don’t worry a bit if all this talk of non-linearity strikes you as a tad abstract.
Leave all that abstraction business to me; I’ve been in the trenches of abstraction—I create computer programs for a living—and know a thing or two about this other wily critter (abstraction) that’s also known to whirl around, dervish-style.
As your guide, as someone who has commandeered for this book’s subtitle the admittedly bold phrase “Essays on Enriching the Imagination”, I solemnly pledge to keep stuff—oh, I like that word, “stuff”—grounded in concreteness, to make your reading adventure not only fun, but also an eminently enriching one. I’m itching to lead you onto the idyllic and altogether airy commons of a local habitation, and which I suspect you’re going to find as alluring as I have, And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name
– William Shakespeare (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Now, rather than stand between you and the fun that awaits you in the pages ahead, let’s make it snappy—think concurrency—and give you a lay of the land which lies ahead.
With that, a word on what lies ahead…
Written as a series of chronicles, and positively not related to The Martian Chronicles—those being Sci Fi writer Ray Bradbury’s chronicles of the settlement of Mars, and a tad too outer-space for my earth-bound liking—I’ll be taking you on a grand tour of imagination enrichment.
Yeah, we’re not settling for Mars; we’re going for the universe itself, and about to do so in the following order. (Hastening to add that The Chronicle of Narnia, while I’m sure they’ve got a lot going for them, that series is for the lovers of magic, mythical beasts, and—yes, I’ve heard—talking animals. We’re not doing much at all in that realm, one of pure fantasy.)
4. Sipping Tea, In Nature ☕
We will emerge on the other side of this book, at once victorious and secure in the knowledge that
Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.
– Francisco Goya
And many a marvel will come your way during the shiny voyage.
Oh yes, we’re prepared. (Take that, Jason and the Argonauts; last time I checked, those guys had merely set out to assemble the blueprints for building their ship, much less recruit some ragtag crew to staff it. They’re not going anywhere for a while: Pass them a Snickers bar now, won’t you please?)