I spent yesterday in a world full of lords, ladies, and even the occasional faerie. It was great to be transported to another world, a fantasy world that blends our fascination with the Renaissance era of royalty and peasantry, with the modern conveniences of our society. We’re willing to readily overlook that they didn’t wear Nike shoes, drink Pepsi and strawberry daiquiris, or eat tacos in the Europe of ages long past. We get the privilege of showing skin, including our tattoos of pentacles, dragons, crosses, roses, etc. proudly showcasing our nostril, eyebrow, and lip piercings, without the dark shadow of religious persecution hanging over our heads. In other words, we get to fulfill our fantasies of living in Shakespeare’s world while still embracing all of the liberties and conveniences of the 21st century.
Like Disney World without the rides, Renaissance Faires provide us with some of that “good, cheesy fun”, a place where even grown-ups get to let their imaginations run wild for a day. From glass-blowing and iron-forging demonstrations, from a man who swallows a two-foot sword to a game with human chess pieces who duke it out on a life-sized chessboard, we let go of our big screen TVs and air-conditioned homes for a while. I hardly saw anyone texting–which is rare because, really, when are we not texting? It’s immediate and convenient, a prime example of just how fast modern life moves. At the Faire, jousting, swordplay, pirates and knights are all there, consuming our attention, and we get to be something we’re not–or, perhaps, something we are.
For my part, I found it easy to indulge in a world where I could browse for anything from faerie and dragon statues to corsets and jewelry to viking swords and spirit boards, all while enjoying bottled water (and, fortunately, recycling receptacles!). The Abbey Scriptorium, a book store inside a tiny version of a church, has been at this Ren Faire location since high school, and I pay it a visit each time. It even manages to maintain a contemplative quiet amidst all of the excitement swirling around outside. It’s a nice stopping place for the slower, more thoughtful atmosphere that we “bookish” types sometimes crave.
I believe strongly in the power and value of our imagination. Anyone who’s excelled in fields as diverse as art, science, math, and politics has cherished imagination for its power to help us visualize better futures, creative solutions, and works of beauty. Albert Einstein said,“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
I try hard to carve out places where my imagination can run loose, to give it a field and say, “Fill this field with whatever you’d like: flowers, grass, horses. Build a castle if you’d like.” I’m not sure I do this enough. My visit to the Ren Faire reminded me how important it is that we craft such spaces in our busy lives, full of so much immediacy. The imagination does not need immediacy. Its processes are often slow and beautiful. Give it a canvas or a blank page, and let it run free for awhile. Don’t pull out a yardstick by which to measure its progress, or rush it along so you can check your e-mail. If we don’t play, how we will embrace the entire world, and understand the parts of ourselves that dwell in shadow, yet are precious, beautiful, and valuable beyond comprehension?