Metastatic Imagination: More Meditations on Metastatic Melanoma

An hour before dawn this morning, as my brain rose to semi-consciousness the day after the cyberknife (radiosurgery) finished killing the Melanoma cells in my brain, I noticed that my imagination was the first thing to come back on line. Images of people I’d never met before, words never heard before, thoughts I’d never thought before—and I said to myself, “Yea! I have my brain back! And look at what it’s doing! It’s playing.”

These silly thoughts came on the heels my first dream in a month, and what was the content? New stuff. Imagination. As I lay in bed half-asleep, the contents of my thoughts were all playful, new inventions.

Later, as I walked down Chestnut Street near our home in San Francisco, another obviousness came to mind. Almost everything I was looking at had existed in some human’s imagination before it came into being—the colors of the dawn sky providing the background were the only exception. For health—mental, physical and all—this imagination is essential for the preservation and the furthering of successful life on the planet—and mine, too.

We tend to think that the contents of our brains are some amalgamation and summary of all our experiences given and received of our lives, that our cerebral cortex, which has mapped so thoughtfully and rigorously every image and experience, that our prefrontal cortex and limbic system which adds meaning so that we “understand” these experiences in ways that help us make decisions,… we tend to think that this is who we are. But there is one more thing: Imagination. We are designed to take all that stuff (36 million seconds of it each year)—and make something new out of it—every day.

Mark Twain famously said about New England, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. To this I would add: Yes, wait a minute—wait a minute for anything that needs changing. Dip into that fertile brain of yours and come up with something new—something not even you have ever thought of before. Be new every minute of every day. Don’t say the same old thing you always say. Surprise someone with a new line. Open Eyes. Open Heart–no wait. Open Imagination.


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16 Responses to Metastatic Imagination: More Meditations on Metastatic Melanoma

  1. Harriet Hubbard McConnochie says:

    I am one more of the many people who are grateful for this site! Yikes, and at the moment suddenly feeling grateful to Edna Clay Ackerly and Dana Tarbell Ackerly for arranging many things, not least of which is you (understatement).

  2. Dan Keller says:

    Hi Rick — Your writings are truly inspiring. Keep up the great work! Thank you! — Dan Keller

  3. Erin Wilson says:

    My personal hero is Mister Rogers and he says, “We all have only one life to live on earth…and [w]e have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.”

    Grateful for the latter.


  4. Patricia Lathrom says:

    Sounds like the procedure was a success!!! So lovely when one’s mind comes back on-line. Thank you for sharing that.
    Do you remember the talk you gave here in Decatur maybe five years ago: 5 Steps to Conflict Resolution? I thought it was brilliant. Here’s proof of the pudding. Recently, a friend asked me to be on the board of her non-profit. The reason (it certainly isn’t because I know a lot of heavy hitters who would donate money to her cause) is because I’ve gotten pretty good at conflict resolution and that has a lot to do with you and that dang workshop. Thank you. And keep on keeping us updated.

  5. Mark says:

    Once, some of us thought that drugs made us more imaginative. We got over that. But the search for inspiration and imagination continued.
    There are surely sparks…debate, music, writing, dreaming, to name a few. Maybe even radiation to the brain. But I like to think of imagination in the terms of a very imaginative story: when the wizard told Dorothy that she already had what she was looking for. All you have to do is click your heels together.
    You’re an imaginative guy. You imagined schools, and made them real. You imagined an idyllic place deep in the forest, then made it real. I like it that others of us get to share your dreams.
    Looking forward to sharing that place in the woods with you for many more years.

  6. Lee Quinby says:

    Your imaginative leap from the particular to the universal is always inspiring and reassuring. Thank you!

    As others have noted, I am glad to know that your recovery seems likely to keep us all supplied with imaginative provocation for years to come!

  7. Dane says:

    So well said, Rick. Keep up the good thoughts and share them with your readers.

  8. Kelly (from Golden Oaks) says:

    Hi Rick,
    Just wanted to tell you that you’re in my thoughts and I’m sending all my positive energy your direction as you take this journey. I’ll continue to look forward to your inspirational messages and updates.

  9. Larry Arnstein says:

    The quote, not exactly a quote, that springs to my mind is from Carlos Castaneda, from the 3rd book of his trilogy, the first two of which are: “The Teachings of Don Juan,” and “A Separate Reality.” The third is “Journey to Ixtlan.” The reason this is not a quote is that the whole book is basically one message which is, more or less, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Your imagination seems to be bringing you a similar message.

  10. I was both saddened and inspired when I received an email from Marlaine. Your blog underlining the power of imagination will motivated me to both sme writing as well as include some key exercises in my parenting workshops. This is so significant!

  11. I’m not far. If anytime you’d like and want my company, give a few days notice!

  12. Rick says:

    Thank you, Larry. I can always count on you to take whatever I say to the next level.

  13. Rick says:

    Marty, So glad this helps… It sure helps me!

  14. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this inspiring post! Sending you all my best.

  15. Just catching up with you via your blog, and glad to hear you are active and making a difference for those of us who know you, especially your demonstrating the value of imagination in giving significance to our lives in uniquely special ways. A hug to you!

  16. Rick says:

    Thanks so much for hanging in there with me and for friendship.

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