Imagination is more important than knowledge. ALBERT EINSTEIN
Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. It is seeing something that is not yet here. It is seeing a different future. It is seeing a combination of existing products that has not yet been tried. SIR KEN ROBINSON
Yesterday, I made puppy soup. (No live puppies were used or harmed in the making of said puppy soup although one Cocker Spaniel was asked to participate in the taste testing.) Today, using my super powers, I flew with two robins and collected twigs for our nest.
Playing with my two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter has reminded me of the importance of imagination. Through play children not only learn about themselves, their talents, as well as test their skills and abilities, but also discover what they need to know about the world around them. For bigger kids imagination is equally important. Imagination is the root of all creativity, problem solving, scientific discoveries and every invention ever developed.
The part of the brain responsible for imagination is located in the frontal lobes which is also responsible for facilitating reflection, empathy, play and creativity. There are two basic types of imagination: Imitative imagination and creative imagination.
Imitative imagination is the mind’s reconstruction of the past where we use our memory to picture something we have experienced and recreate it. Making puppy soup was my granddaughter’s way of recreating the experience of watching me chop vegetables, add them to a broth, stir the concoction and serve out bowls of homemade soup.
Creative imagination is the restructuring of past sensory impressions. Mental imagery of past images or experiences constructs sensations or conditions never before experienced. Without ever having been on a Caribbean cruise, we are still able to close our eyes and imagine a ship, cabins and turquoise water.
Like most children, growing up I had a healthy imagination—some called it overactive. To a daydreamer kind of kid like me, becoming a writer was a logical career choice. Writers know about imagination.
When my children were young, I watched their toy boxes fill up with dolls that crawled and robots that moved, then watched as these expensive, hard plastic, battery-operated, one trick ponies made their way to the bottom of the boxes, destined never to become the favourite toy. What were the favourite toys? There was Teddy (a stuffed Teddy Bear), Bunny (a stuffed bunny rabbit) and a doll named Irma. What each favourite toy had in common was it did absolutely nothing. Its appeal, and indeed staying power lay, in the invitation to imagine and create.
People lacking an imagination (I’m sure you know a few) are at best, dull and at worst, scary. I wonder whether the absence of imagination and abundance of people who grew up with automated toys that limited how children played might explain what is wrong with the world today.
What have you daydreamed about today? Did you seeing something that is not yet here? Did you let your imagination out to play?
Here’s a video from the Grande Dame of Imagination, J.K. Rowlings, as she delivers a commencement speech to the Harvard class of 2008.