"I wish the world was as I used to imagine it as a child long ago!" When I was a boy, I would wander around for hours looking into all sorts of shop windows to find coloured picture books. My heart would jump for joy at the sight of the gaudy medley. I saw merry figures: soldiers, bullfighters, smoking frogs and laughing pagodas. Here a magically small creature sitting in the feathers of a blue swallow came flying over a green landscape; there a long train was puffing through a tunnel. But I was particularly intrigued by a stout captain in a gold-tressed uniform standing firmly on his gaily flagged schooner. He took me with him. His ship brought me far away across the blue sea into an exotic new world. A gentle salt-water breeze smelling slightly of tar touched my face. The sea roared. The captain stood next to me on deck, his face brown as cedarwood. We passed gleaming white islands with swaying palm trees; we saw monkeys chewing carob, blacks wearing gold nose-rings and ear-rings, screeching parrots and blinking crocodiles. We stopped off at one of the many islands. That was deliriously beautiful. Extraordinary butterflies fluttered by on metallic wings, emerald lizards lay like jewels amidst the splendour of the brilliantly coloured flowers, birds of paradise and velvet colibris hovered over us with their amazing colours and grotesquely ornate feathers. We passed through a jungle with fiery red orchids glowing from the lianas. - My friend, the captain, was well known here. Strange people welcomed us: small little creatures with heads like salamanders. They led us through hanging tree roots, then down through dark underground tunnels to the hidden secrets of the earth. Here, deep down in the depths of the earth, we saw in the dim light colossal buildings of sunken cities once ruled by powerful kings under glorious sunshine. - By the time we climbed back, night had fallen and the skies were clear. The captain put his telescope into my hand, and directed it to the stars, saying: "Look at this: the world is more beautiful than you have ever dreamed!" The sight of the stars in all their glory seemed to draw me upwards. We leaped on to our ship; I was allowed to take the helm and I steered the schooner out of the water into the dark oceans of the air.- Why shouldn't the sails billowing in the wind be able to carry the ship up into the air? Higher and higher we moved: past the moon, down along glittering Milky Way through the innumerable wonders of the universe. My captain, the old salt, was satisfied with me. - A box on the ear brought me back every time from the enchantment of such journeys down again into the grey, narrow world of reality, back to the small worries of my daily homework! 2 times 2 = 4. No more and no less. Make sure that your thoughts never step over the given bounds! And that is how it will remain for the future: 2 times 2 = 4. Life becomes a question of arithmetic, people are turned into calculating machines. - I began to forget the fairy tales of the beautiful world. - Today it is not a question of the small worries of homework: today it is the big worries of everyday life. - An inner longing consumes us all. Longing for what? We do not know: we have long since forgotten the child within us. It is time we remembered. - Life without imagination is not really life at all: it is cold and dull. Only imagination can lift us out of the grey routine, out of the machine-like monotony into an unfettered and liberating sphere, into a joyful world of splendid colours, a world full of humour and of the fantastically beautiful. What we need to do: take our reason for a walk, send it on holiday. The unreal world is intoxicatingly carefree and a source of new strength and inspiration for our work and for the ever more important calculation: 2 times 2 = 4. - - - Relax! - Being able to is an art. Open this book - and you will master it!!
JANUARY 1932, STEFAN MART