Of all the creatures on God’s Earth, it’s only the human being who has been endowed with a special gift that distinguishes us from all other creatures. It’s a gift we all possess but only a few among us are able to put to good use. And those who are able to do so emerge as artists, writers, philosophers, innovators, inventors, pioneers and discoverers.
Yes, if there is one thing that has marked the ascent of human civilization it is imagination.
The Bible described it as the ‘Loss of Innocence’ when Adam and Eve bit the ‘Fruit of Knowledge’ resulting in their ‘Expulsion’ from ‘Paradise’. But it was that ‘Expulsion’ that led to ‘Evolution’ the Devil had the last laugh.
Be that as it may through the trials and travails of time the one thing that has kept us afloat is our imagination. From the building of the Pyramids to the creation of Artificial Intelligence the spark that ignited our minds is imagination. It led us to ask ‘What if ‘ and ‘Why not’.
It is from the crucible of imagination that many of the ideas that define our universe have emerged.
Archimedes’ imagination got a wake-up call as he lowered himself in a bathtub full of water and he came up with the idea of buoyancy. Galileo’s imagination was stirred when he observed the movement of stars and he came up with the idea of a heliocentric universe. Newton’s imagination took a leap when he saw the apple drop and he came up with the idea of gravity. Imagination inspired Louis Henri Sullivan to think of cities expanding vertically rather than horizontally and that together with the advent metal frame construction and the invention of the elevator led to the idea of the skyscraper that changed the world forever. In another flight of imagination, Sir Tim Berners Lee thought of a means to build a just and thriving society by connecting everyone, raising voices and enhancing participation. From that emerged the idea of the World Wide Web.
However, if there is one man whose genius embodied the importance of imagination and power of ideas in the evolution of thinking, inquiry and research it was Einstein. Thinking beyond the norm gave Einstein’s imagination the impetus to come up with the idea that the world knows as the Theory of Relativity.
Not surprisingly according to Einstein:
Harnessing the power of imagination and ideas to create great communication is the icing on the cake.
Remember William Wordsworth. His poetry thrived on imagination in the form of a spontaneous outflow of feelings deftly communicated through a tranquil expression of emotions. He called it the ‘the inward eye’ and called it the ‘bliss of solitude’.
Closer home we have Rabindranath Tagore who believed “The Stronger is the imagination the less imaginary it is”. The poet’s irrepressible imagination took wings as he flew an aeroplane for the first time. Here’s how he described his experience: “ The flying machine made man a bird. The land and the water are at his feet. Only heaven is there to conquer.”
Centuries ago in another flight of fancy another great Indian poet, Kalidasa imagined the rain-bearing clouds traversing from the ocean in the south to the mountains in the north to carry the message of a lover living in Central India pining for his beloved whose home was in the Himalayas. This gave birth to Meghduta, an immortal work of creativity that has been an abiding source of imagination in the East and West.
Imagination and ideas have also created communication that stirred and shook the world.
Sometimes back Adolf Hitler fired the imagination of his people with the idea of world domination encapsulated in three words ‘Deutschland über alles’ that led to the catastrophic Second World War. To counter it Churchill stirred the imagination of the British nation with the idea of resistance with bulldog determination encapsulated in an equally memorable phrase: ‘We shall never surrender’.
Back to our times, we had President Obama electrifying the imagination of those who follow the stars and stripes with the idea of living the American Dream conveyed through one of the greatest communication pieces of all time: ‘Yes, we can’.