Imagination: the bottomless well of human creativity. Speculations abound as to what can enhance the imagination, “set it free,” or fuel it. Possible methods: drinking alcohol to excess, ingesting illegal drugs or plants such as mushrooms, sex, or inducing physical pain. Other speculation centers on the relationship between mental illness/instability and creativity. No doubt, highly creative people can gravitate toward extremes in living and experiences and behavior. They think outside of the box. But does the imagination really need anything more from us than our attention and willingness to use it?
Recently, I had major surgery. I enjoyed the mild sedation before we rolled into the surgical theater and I was very focused on my life after I regained consciousness. The first pain medication they gave post-surgery didn’t work for me and made me ill. My surgeon changed to morphine. I’ve experienced morphine before, including hallucinating on it, and it wasn’t pleasant. But this time, I controlled the administration of the drug completely through a self-doser. I was happy. No more pain.
But with the drug’s effectiveness came other things, such as feeling loopy. My short term memory was shot. Today, I remember very, very little of those first few post-surgery days when I was on the morphine. The drug also did nothing for my imagination. I felt as if my imagination had also been drugged into lethargy and grogginess. My scientist friend visited one afternoon while I was on the morphine and we watched the movie Up together. Last week I told her that I didn’t remember the movie at all because of the morphine. She quite cheerfully responded that I could see it again as if it were the first time. A rare pleasure.
My experience with morphine this time got me thinking about the importance of memory to imagination and creativity. Writers, and I believe other creative artists, need memory of their life experiences, their sensual experiences, and stories on which to draw for their characters’ stories. Memory is a partner in creativity. For me, nothing about morphine and its effects enhanced my imagination or creativity. I mourn the loss of my memories while on it. But it did what it was supposed to do….