I am a poor cricket player, yet it is a fine way to spend a day. A company I worked at had an annual game with a client, played on the beautifully tended grounds of a fine manor house in southern England. One beautiful summer day, with all the social pleasures associated with such a game, included tea and sandwiches then cakes and cocktails, I was positioned at the edge of the field in the Cow Corner position (about 4 o’clock, as it were). As I pondered the clouds hazily wafting across the horizon, the play of light and shadow on the hues of greens and yellows in the fields and the scent of freshly cut grass, my post-prandial reverie was broken by the the unmistakeable thwack of the batsman’s vigorous strike of a willow bat on the leather cricket ball. Unfortunately, I was a thousand miles away in my mind, having been completely lulled into daydreaming, and had no idea where the ball was. I proceeded to run around on the spot, hands outstretched in supplication, scanning the sky for the ball. With great relief, and some avoidance of embarrassment, the ball had been struck towards the third man position, diagonally across from me, and so the ball, and other eyes, went away from the comic sight of me re-emerging from my reverie.
I relish daydreaming. For whatever reason, I seem disposed towards an active imagination that propels me into fantastical scenarios. The world around me dissolves to be replaced by the inner landscapes of my mind and its whimsical realms of possibility. Reverie is where, like Alice, I plunge into the depths of my interior, or sail away and over the horizon to find new vistas, a Baconian New Atlantis.
Yielding insights and innovation, reverie is that room in my mind where I am able to embrace what creativity pioneer Graham Wallas described as the incubation stage, where voluntary abstention from conscious thought provides the breathing space for ideas to germinate. Yet we are fearful of being alone with ourselves, as I noted here. That fear is compounded in business settings where there is a perpetual drive towards performance and output, or at least the faked appearance of it.
While I have no doubt of the need for innovative concepts to be implemented, we cannot shortchange the process by leaping past the incubation period. Silence, solitude and reverie are inherently essential to a productive, creative professional and personal life (albeit not so helpful on the cricket field… )