Msnowe's Blog

A Quest(ion) of Imagination

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on December 30, 2009

m.snowe has a random query. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has asked those who manufacture plastic bags to voluntarily print the following message somewhere on the bags:

“Warning: Keep this bag away from babies and children. Do not use in cribs, beds, carriages or playpens.The plastic bag could block nose and mouth and prevent breathing. This bag is not a toy

Well, that’s all fine and dandy. m.snowe appreciates that the bag manufacturers are being diligent when it comes to child safety (most print this message somewhere on their bags), and that the CPSC is getting such a good response from their ever-so-polite suggestion. But why, m.snowe wonders, did the CPSC decide to call out “cribs, beds, carriages or playpens,” as the necessary “do not use” zones? While these might be the areas where suffocation is most-likely to occur, m.snowe find this an epic failure of imagination. This call out isn’t really necessary, is it? Isn’t “Keep this bag away from babies and children” enough? The occurrences of suffocation reported on the agency’s website even describe some of the other ways babies met their demise via this unforgiving synthetic material (ex.: “child crawled into garbage bag”) Sorry if this is gruesome–m.snowe doesn’t mean to make light of it (mostly). It just seems that the inclusion of qualifiers is counter-productive and serves to disqualify other suffocation dangers, like the garbage bag. The possibility that suffocation via a plastic bag can occur anywhere there is a plastic bag and a small child is the reality of the situation.

Why does this simple problem of messaging bother m.snowe so? The exclusion of slightly extraordinary possibilities. Every situation is unique, and if it seems too crazy or coincidental to be realistic fiction, then it might, in fact, be reality. Imagination isn’t just for creative types–it’s useful in general. It won’t necessarily predict the future, but perhaps, just maybe, it will leave you a bit more open to, or cautious of, future possibilities, be they tragic or comic.  This of course isn’t always a boon–getting caught up in an active imagination’s endless possibilities can easily make one go crazy (Hamlet?), or paralyze one from action (Hamlet?).

Is there a balance?