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The Genius of Daydreaming - Nightingale

Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series

The Genius of Daydreaming - Earl Nightingale

A teacher, busy with instructions for the next subject, noticed that one child was gazing out the window. She stopped talking, and the entire class turned to look at the daydreamer. Finally, the child realized everything was too quiet, except for an occasional snicker from another student, and turned to face the teacher.

“What have you been doing?” asked the teacher.

“I was thinking,” the child replied.

The teacher snapped back, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to think in school!"

Whereupon, after a moment of stunned silence, the children burst into helpless laughter, much to the teacher’s embarrassment.

I saw the most interesting little cartoon the other day. It depicted a class of prehistoric children, all dressed in small bearskins, sitting on the floor of a cave. Before them was the teacher, wearing a large bearskin. He had sketched a picture of a deer on the wall of the cave and had drawn a small x where the heart would be. He was apparently teaching a class on how to hunt a deer.

One of the small children, however, wasn’t paying attention. He was sitting like the others, but he was turned toward the viewer and was whittling with a small stone knife. The teacher was giving him a bad time about not paying attention and said, “Don’t you want to keep up with the other children?"

And then you see that the child is whittling an airplane.

When children are thinking, they are performing the highest function of the human creature, and it can happen that they’re thinking on a much higher and better plane than they would be if they were paying attention to what is presently going on.

Daydreaming is not necessarily, as popular opinion would have it, a waste of time—far from it. Daydreams have led to many of the benefits we enjoy today—books, motion pictures, conveniences of modern society, scientific breakthroughs. No one knows very much about the human brain, but when it’s allowed to fly out the window and come up with what it will, it can occasionally come up with some real winners.

Of course, too much daydreaming without engineering the good ideas down to earth and putting them into use, can lead to trouble. It might be said that there is a time to daydream and a time to get to work. Certainly, if all the children in a classroom were allowed to daydream at will, nobody would ever learn anything. But we should be careful when we jump on children for thinking instead of paying attention; of the two, thinking is usually the more important, and there’s altogether too little of it these days.

It seems that we tend to daydream about subjects that are important to us, and, by so doing, we lay the groundwork for future activity and accomplishment. Daydreaming can also prevent illness from too much negative stress.

Every serviceman who has ever gone into combat knows how daydreaming in quiet moments can take one back to one’s home and family and friends.

For a few moments, the war is blotted out; the anxiety and fear of injury or instant extinction are forgotten; and the world is back in order. There’s no doubt that daydreaming has an important therapeutic effect.

Daydreaming is one of our greatest gifts, and we’d be much poorer without it. And when you peek into your youngster’s room and find him quietly gazing out the window or at the ceiling, it might be a good idea just to leave him alone for a while.

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