Things I learned from Agatha Christie: Imagination is Vital

I’ve started rereading my Agatha Christie books. As a teenager they were one of my reading staples, and thanks to a thrift store with a good book selection and prices even I could afford, I accumulated a couple dozen of her books. Coming back to them after ten or twelve years of only sporadic reading makes certain themes a lot more obvious.

For one thing, I remember why I used to be concerned about eating food that was just sitting around, because you never know when someone might have poisoned a sandwich or a cookie or an apple in the assumption that a particular person was going to eat it, and by coming along and eating it you would throw off their plans entirely, not to mention dying in the process.

Another thing that stands out to me is the connection she makes between imagination and sympathy. A person with no imagination is pretty scary in her world, because that person has absolutely no idea what other people want or like. The kindest person, without the imagination to know what kindness is needed, becomes a frightening force.

This kind of person relentlessly bakes fruitcake for neighbors who hate fruitcake, knits ugly sweaters for relatives who are never cold and cannot comprehend a friend’s disappointment at being unable to travel, because traveling is so inconvenient, surely the friend wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway.

And naturally, any person this annoying is eventually going to be knocked in the head with a poker or poisoned with arsenic laced fruitcake. (I learned that from Agatha Christie too.) So you can see how dangerous it is to be a person who lacks imagination!

I must recommend that every person cultivate great powers of imagination. Not only does it save the people around you great tedium and annoyance, but it may just be vital to a long and healthy life as well.