I was browsing through the Windsor Plywood store at Smithers. One of the staff asked me if he could help.
“No,” I replied, “I’m just looking for ideas.”
“White seems to be popular,” he answered. Not really helpful.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes trolling for ideas. Canadian Tire, Home Depot, A Buck or Two, Revelstoke, Windsor Plywood, Value Village – these are some of the places where I go trolling. I just wander around, looking to see what resources might be there, new or previously unnoticed. Perhaps I will find something I can use immediately – something I need but didn’t know I need. But I am really looking for things to add to my memory bank of possibilities, things I might some day be able to use to solve a problem I have not yet encountered.
As I told another salesperson offering to help, “I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’ll recognize it when I see it.”
It works. I get a lot of enjoyment out of using some little invention I’ve cobbled together out of some junk and a piece of “Builders Hardware” from the Co-Op. It is the only one of its kind in existence and it serves its purpose better than anything I could have bought.
I wish I would go trolling for ideas a little more often, on another level. I wish I had done more trolling when I realize that my habitual ways of doing things, of relating to people, of living inside my skin are simply not good enough and I need to change something: an attitude, a routine, an assumption, an expectation. That’s when I discover that I don’t have much of a treasury of possibilities to sift through. Then I admit I have to put things on hold until I find something I can adapt. (The danger lies in putting something on hold and just leaving it there.)
I see that I need to spend more time just paying attention, watching other people and learning from them that my way is not necessarily the only way or even the best way to do what I need to do. Every person has found unique ways of dealing with life’s obstacles. Every person has something important to teach me. Every person offers an opportunity to marvel and admire.
I don’t troll for something to mimic, but for raw material I can take and shape to fit the demands of my own life, my own situation. There is an inexhaustible supply of human treasure waiting to be found, not even buried like the treasure in the Lord’s parable, but lying on the surface, if only I can slow down, forget my own agenda a while, and just look.
A replenished stock of possibilities is not all I need. If I can’t see which one best fits my situation or how I can make it my own I will never transformed it from possibility to reality. I need a spark of creativity. I need a transfusion of imagination.
Created in the image of our Creator, we are meant to be creators as well. We are destined to be originators, sources of new reality. So often our failures in life are failures of imagination. We work hard, we wear ourselves out with heroic dedication, but we fail to dream.
We are great at remembering. Our liturgies are based on remembering the stories of our predecessors in faith. Remembering the Passover of the Lord makes it present to us and makes us participants.
I don’t think we are so adept when it comes to imagining the future. We need a divine spur to help us move on. But I can’t remember hearing a prayer for imagination. I haven’t been able to find one. All my trolling has yielded only a maxim.
“Don’t mistake the edge of your rut for the horizon.”
© 2001, Phil Smith, Box 64, Ucluelet, B.C. Canada, VOR 3A0. Permission for non-profit use is hereby granted, provided no substantive changes are made and this information is included. I’d appreciate knowing how you may have used my musings!  Any typos?

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