Before I begin, I’m kind of cheating. This is not a new business idea, but a new concept to me that I’m using to explore one of my oldest ideas ever.
Imaginary worlds are a place where we can escape, or perhaps imagine our own version of Utopia. According to the book Wired to Create, it turns out that many of the creative geniuses from history – whether notable writers, inventors, or painters – engaged in what Michele Root-Bernstein calls “Worldplay” as children. Whether it’s building a world with Legos, or drawing roads in the dirt with a stick, worldplay is an activity to which many people have an immediate nostalgic connection.
I never had an imaginary friend. But, reading this, I’m able to immediately connect and nostalgically put a name to something I’ve been doing since childhood without really thinking about it.
“Paracosm” is another world for the imaginary worlds we create. I’ve never done justice to my own recurring paracosm. I’ve never even thought about it consciously until this very moment. My paracosm has been a place that I visit in my dreams, waking and asleep, and I’ve never even thought to name it. It has been a source of comfort. It’s been a source of exploration. It melded in my mind with that quintessential dream people have about discovering new rooms in a house. That’s how my paracosm was built.
My recurring world is a phalanstère structure: a large communal building meant to contain a Utopian society of about 500-2000 people. I was unaware of the term but was able to piece this together by Googling exactly what I was picturing. Sometimes, the phalanstère was made of glass. It crept around and clung to the side of a mountain. Staircases climbed in contrary directions and trick doors took you to strange nooks and crannies. It was a bustling village with living quarters mixed in with shops. Imagine a bustling center of commerce in some European or Middle Eastern, walled city from a previous century, only indoors. Only the mall was built more like an Earth Ship than Mall of America. The strangest part was the bathroom with one-sided glass: the person using the shower could see out of the shower, but no one could see in. The bathroom was perched on a second floor, with a view of a large living area down below.
The Bronte sisters created the “Glass Town Federation.” Whether theirs was built of literal glass like mine, I’m not sure. An excerpt from Wired to Create:
“This imaginary world consisted of the kingdoms of Angria (invented by Branwell and Charlotte) and Gondal (invented by Emily and Anne), ruled within the capital city of Glass Town. The children drew maps, invented characters, and wrote stories about these imaginary worlds, naming themselves the gods (“genii”) of the kingdoms.”
I have such great memories of making dioramas, playing with dollhouses and creating real tiny rivers and mountains by digging in the dirt and adding water. I can’t wait to do this with my children.
Maybe someday I’ll name my world and incorporate characters. Do you have your own imaginary world and, if so, what is it like? How did you first dream it up?