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Letters About Literature National Winners 2006

National Winner, Level 1: Phillip Brockman

Dear Michael Crichton,

"The ability to imagine is the largest part of what you call intelligence."--The Sphere

This line from your book popped out of the page, danced around me, and hit me on the head. Imagination. It is like a little flame that keeps a mind alive, but if that flame goes out, although life goes on, a part of you dies. Both unfortunately and fortunately, I know this from personal experience.

When I was younger, imagination was one of my most treasured possessions. At the age of four, I spent hours in my rickety plywood tree house staring up at the sky creating the "Land of Little Wumps." At the age of six, I was fighting the Green Goblin with Spiderman. At the age of nine, I was dueling the evil wizard, Zimmer. But since then, I have noticed my flame of imagination dying. The little Wumps are nearly forgotten. I no longer have time for battles or duels with evil. What inflicted this change? Is it natural for this to happen? I thought it was an irreversible part of growing up, until I read Sphere.

I realized that my imagination diminished as my obligations grew. Over a period of four days, I could (and still) enjoy many activities ranging from violin to tae kwon do to math club. When not involved in these, I was studying for a test at school. All of these activities remain meaningful to me, but they left little time to dream and imagine. This left my world as colorful as a black and white television film--and as grainy.

In your book, Norman Johnson's life for fifty years was defined by facts. But in the end, in order to survive, he gave up his reliance in concrete beliefs and in the skills of others and turned towards his own imagination, courage and strength. Norman learned from "the sphere" that the power of imagining is one of the strongest forces on Earth and that he actually had the power to control his destiny all along.

I, like Norman, had started to put my belief in facts, believing in only what I could see or what could be proved, and relying mainly on the instruction of others. Unlike Norman, I will not wait until I am fifty years old to rediscover the ability to rely on my own power to problem-solve creatively. Since reading Sphere, I have felt that four-year-old Wump Creator trying to live again. I am still as active as ever, but not I make sure to take time to lose myself in good books, laugh at myself when I make silly faces in the mirror, and allow sadness to flow when I remember those I have lost. Most important of all, I am learning to believe in my abilities to influence my destiny.

Sphere helped relight the candle of imagination inside of me. With this rejuvenated light, I can see the color in the world. Now, it is up to me to keep that flame burning bright. Thank you for brightening the world.

Phillip Brockman
Thompson, North Dakota