“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Sounds like something Picasso or Pollock might have said, doesn’t it? It may surprise you (but probably not, since you see the photo above) that this comes from one of the world’s greatest minds. Albert Einstein spoke these words in an interview published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1929, and later they appeared in his own writings.
Most of us have a long way to go before we even come close to reaching the limits inherent in knowledge, but there are limits. Imagination has no boundaries. Imagination busts straight through the walls around knowledge and soars over them. Both imagination and its first cousin, creativity, reside outside the box.
When Einstein wrestled through a complex problem, he would do something different to engage another part of his brain and think in new ways. He played the violin in order to think more creatively.
Winston Churchill painted landscapes when he had a tough decision to make.
I don’t pretend to compare myself to them, but I’ve recently started to work on puzzles when I’m stumped in my writing. It helps.
Einstein was a scientist, but he claimed to be enough of an artist to freely draw upon imagination. He also said he believed in intuition and inspiration, and sometimes he felt he was right when he didn’t know why.
This encourages me. I have always relied heavily on my imagination. In the old Myers-Briggs test, most of the categories fluctuate for me, but I’ve always scored a solid 20-0 in the one labeled Intuition.
I am a writer, but I consider myself foremost an artist. I believe the Creator God gave everyone the propensity to create, whether art or words or ideas or music. Whether we draw upon that part of our brains is up to us, but it is there to be tapped when we’re ready to develop it.
Recently, during the Q&A after an author talk via zoom, one of my teenage readers said they loved the fact that I had imaginary friends growing up. Debby Whooby and Donna Hook were my constant companions for a few years. My parents encouraged my imagination, something I will always be grateful to them for doing.
My reader went on to say that people make fun of her for having imaginary friends. I told her not to mind them. “They look at life from a rigid mold,” I said, “but you are a creative genius.” I could see her beam from inside the little zoom square.
Some people try to make One Degree of Freedom into a statement about politics. It’s not. Or they think I’m down on science, since Adriana didn’t want to be forced to study engineering. I’m not.
I just tried to write a good story. A story born in my imagination.
The world needs both Science and Art, the analytical right brain and the creative left brain. But individuals need to be free to choose their field. With all the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) these days, I wonder what will happen to the arts?
The arts make life interesting. They bring color and beauty and vitality into our world. Creativity take us places. Imagination infuses us with hope. Won’t our world be lopsided if artistic expression becomes devalued?
And if you have to choose between the two? I’d take imagination over knowledge any day. What about you?