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Interpretation of “Imagination” by George Dalaras

I don’t think I am the right person to accurately praise George Dalaras’ remarkable corpus of work. Suffice to note that he has a few hundred outstanding hits in his repertoire.

For this entry, I have picked Imagination (Η Φαντασία), which is a wonderful song with an insightful message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0jej0gbAGc.

Below are the lyrics, my translation of them, and subsequent philosophical commentary.

Η Φαντασία

Εμρηνεία:  Γιώργος Νταλάρας
Στίχοι:    Ευτυχία Παπαγιαννοπούλου
Μουσική:   Απόστολος Καλδάρας


Δε φταις εσύ, η φαντασία μου τα φταίει
που σ' έπλασε όπως ήθελε αυτή
Η φαντασία μου που χρόνια με γελούσε
πως θα μ' ανοίξεις την καρδιά μου την κλειστή

Μα ποιο είναι κείνο το όνειρο
που βγαίνει πάντα αλήθεια
και δεν αφήνει χαρακιές στις περισσότερες καρδιές
και μια πληγή στα στήθια

Δε φταις εσύ, η φαντασία μου τα φταίει
Γι αυτό μην κλαις που φεύγω βιαστικά
σε μένα τώρα πια ταιριάζει για να κλάψω
για της καρδιάς μου τα χαμένα ιδανικά

Μα ποιο είναι κείνο το όνειρο
που βγαίνει πάντα αλήθεια
και δεν αφήνει χαρακιές στις περισσότερες καρδιές
και μια πληγή στα στήθια
Imagination

Singer:  George Dalaras
Lyrics:  Eftichia Papayianopoulou
Music:   Apostolos Kaldaras


It's not your fault, my imagination is to blame
which moulded you the way it wanted
The imagination which fooled me for years
that you would open my closed heart

But which is that dream
that always comes true
that leaves no scratches on most hearts
and a wound on the chest

It's not your fault, my imagination is to blame
So don't cry that I leave in a hurry
It befits me to cry now
for my heart's lost ideals

But which is that dream
that always comes true
that leaves no scratches on most hearts
and a wound on the chest

“It is the hope that kills you”, as the saying goes. This is essentially what the song is about. Aspirations, desires, expectations… They all spring from the mind and all have the potential to force us into submission.

Our imagination is a powerful instrument. It is what allows us to fathom alternative outcomes in the workings of a given case and implement the requisite changes. The imaginary is that which is not constrained by the actual and thus has the capacity to reveal the inner mechanics of a given arrangement of factors.

To imagine, then, is to escape from the confines of the applicable into the domain of the possible. It is a mistake to think of imaginary worlds as unreal. They are real in their conceivability. Their very presence as objects of thought, noetic presences, is not false per se. They simply are not actual.

This subtle yet vital distinction helps us appreciate the key role imagination plays in one’s creativity or ingenuity. When someone appears to have created something from nothing, they have rendered actual that which was theretofore real albeit imaginary. In other words, a plane of reality has in its potential all that is conceivable within it.

[ Read: Why you are not important ]

Imagining things has its concequences. For example, a positive scenario evokes pleasant feelings. Emotions have a cascading effect on the biochemistry of the body, leading to at least a short-term boost to one’s overall wellness when the feelings are good (and the opposite when they are not).

To imagine thus means to engender states of affairs in this plane of existence. It is an action with its own chain of reactions, just as with everything else we take for granted in the “real world”.

Imagination is a double-edged sword though. The power to escape from the particulars can be used to great effect to produce consequences in the here-and-now, though latent in it is the destructive force of detachment and removal from the present.

Read/watch:

The person can get lost in the imaginary domain and thus fail to distinguish the actual from the non-actual. This can take many forms, such as clinging to one’s past, believing that some anonymous stranger is destined to become your one true love, having an unfair view about your self-worth, and so on.

Imagination is what prevents us from disambiguating ideals from the actuality of things. Insofar as the actual is concerned, ideals cannot exist qua ideals. They may only be rendered present as instantiations of an ideal, though that means they will be subject to the vicissitudes of the applicable case and thus be informed, framed, conditioned, or otherwise determined by magnitudes external to them.

When we imagine things in this way, we fail to recognise the benign function ideals perform in our life. An ideal is an abstraction from the particularities. It is the common in the multitude of instances which we give a name to and fasten attributes (mode of being) upon. For example, the ideal of dog, such as how it is used in the taxonomy of species, has to have the minimum amount of attributes which are then substantiated and expanded upon in different breeds/landraces and then individual specimens. Yet dog as such cannot subsist, for the minimum of an ideal is not sufficient for the viability of the actual: the scope of modality between the two is different.

In simple terms, ideals help us understand things in vitro. To apply the findings in vivo we have to make certain changes. The ideal is our guide in life, as it helps us tell apart that which fulfils its stated ends from that which fall way short of them. Think, for instance, about a “good knife” as opposed to a “bad knife” when it comes to the function of slicing things effectively. The ideal is the benchmark.

Imagination becomes a problem when we fail to (i) recognise that ideals are not actual, and (ii) that actuality is not perfect. Everything we do and everything we have is imperfect, else not ideal. The most beautiful person is not Beauty. The most wise of sages is not Wisdom. The most effective of dogs is not Dog.

Returning to the words of the song, when we put someone on a pedestal, when we think that their pretty looks are peerless and that the value of the whole world is predicated on them, we commit the error of conflating the actual with the ideal.

It is not your fault: I was just imagining things. My mistake is that I did not keep my imagination in check.