Quote of the day:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world." -Albert Einsten
The power of imagination
Close your eyes for a moment, and remember what it's like to be a child again. Let your mind wander through a world without limits. Remember the days where life was full of giants and mythical creatures, where ordinary people turned into witches, princesses, goddesses, and wizards. Back then, reality was only limited by what your imagination could do. Anything, and I mean, anything, could happen.
We moved through life building walls as we went, defining what was real and what was not. Slowly, we gave up some of our power to dream without barriers, deeming the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus as unreal, childish, and unimportant. Imaginary friends went from being partners in crime to unrealistic, an escape from the "real" world. What I'm getting at is this: even at a young age, imagination is often underestimated, taken as childish and irrational. Too often parents, teachers, and other adults want to focus in what is "real" and concrete. However, imagination is a way of learning, and it can be just as powerful as any other way of knowing, and in fact can strengthen other ways of knowing.
Through imagination, children are able to better develop cognition and thinking abilities, but don't think imagination is only child's play. Imagination inspires innovation and allows people of all ages to contemplate their realities and other people's.
Cognition Development in children
Recent studies have shown that children use their imagination to develop cognitive abilities. Through imagination, children develop neural pathways that allow them to think and reason through problems, as well as put themselves in the positions of others.
Imagining yourself as a princess or thinking about how fat Santa Claus could fit through your chimney as a child made you think of possibilities, problem-solving, and outcomes. It also made you put yourself in someone else's position, whether that be a real person or something completely crazy like a spy spider monkey with two heads.
Imagination can also play a role in early language development. This is because young children have a tendency to start linking objects with words to describe them. As children imagine objects, stories, and the functions of things, they search for words to describe their creations, as well as for role-playing. Thus, this advances their progress in language learning.
While it is true that imagination is key to child development, it should not, and does not stop with Santa Claus and playing dress up. Out of imagination have come the most innovative ideas and inventions in history. Systematic languages and writing, weapons, architecture, the light bulb, and almost anything you can think of. All of these may have come from previously built upon knowledge, but they came about because a person or a group of people put facts together and asked themselves the question (consciously or subconsciously) "I wonder what would happen if..." in order to solve a problem faced by society, or maybe just to satisfy their curiosity.
But imagination goes beyond the concrete, the mundane, and the ordinary. Imagination creates ideas that inspire revolutions in every way, from technological advancements to social revolutions and movements, and even war.
Sci-fi works coming straight from people's imaginations have inspired incredible inventions such as the submarine, the helicopter, the rocket, the cell phone and many other technological innovations have been inspired by works in sci-fi such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Clipper of the Clouds, War of the Worlds, and Star Trek respectively. And this is just a short list…
Furthermore, fictional writings in other areas have also proven to make people question their society, loyalties, and what they believe in. One of the big examples in U.S history is Uncle Tom's Cabin. This fictional book centering in the lives of fictional slave characters not only became one of the most best selling books in the world of all time, but it is also said to have helped spark the flames of the American Civil War. It even affected who helped the Union or the Confederacy during the war. In fact, when President Lincoln met with the author of the book, he said, "So you're the little woman who started this great war."
In conclusion, yes, imagination does not technically focus on "real" or concrete knowledge most of the time. However, imagination helps us contemplate our realities, and see them not just for what we think they are, but for what they could be. It gives us the power to step inside someone else's shoes for a while, or wander what could lie beyond the known universe, or solve a simple problem creatively. It combines everything we already think we know, and turns it into something we don't... something of our own making. We just need to be careful and remind ourselves that our imagination, too, is biased, coming from our own assumptions, beliefs, understandings, and culture.