In the midst of my not-so-often meanderings of life following yet another failed midterm at this hellhole of a college, a quotation by Albert Einstein reminded me that life is about more than mundane intelligibility. I may never fully comprehend quantum mechanics no matter the many stressful nights of sleep deprivation. Whatever. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Knowledge is indeed practical – very plain and unadorned but useful for sure. It works, yes, but it “closes the mind and heart with a solution”. While on the other hand, imagination “opens the mind and heart with wonder and with the apprehension of beauty”. Bear with me as I persist with my rather mind-fucking discourse.
Imagination helps provide meaning to experiences and understanding to knowledge. Although imagination is certainly dependent on knowledge, it is not limited to the acquisition of exact knowledge or to the requirements of practical necessity. Einstein claimed, “Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” He obviously stood on the side of imagination – colorful and creative – over knowledge. Geniuses like Einstein, as well as most artists, have often claimed imagination as their territory. I am neither genius nor an artist but still agree with Einstein: imagination is the key factor with which knowledge goes beyond its limitations. At the same time, I believe that imagination cannot be developed without the basic familiarity, the theoretical understanding of the subject – the logical, stable knowledge – that the imagination is being based off of. This is not to say that imagination is illogical or unstable.
The scale upon which imagination and knowledge is placed is tipped for each person on a rather personal basis according to his or her dominant area of knowledge or personality, and for me, the scale is tipped to the side of imagination. However, I do see the two objects of the human mind as having direct correlation, existing as duos with one as important as the other; imagination conceives the idea, while knowledge executes the idea conceived. The brilliance, beauty of great art is grounded in years of hard training, and extraordinary scientists whose domains expand beyond simple knowledge do exist. Throughout human development, a blend of imagination and knowledge has been relied upon, and ultimately, both are valuable.
The limitations of knowledge mostly arise from the fact that knowledge only involves the acquirable perception of the past and present. Knowledge is the steppingstone to imagination and means nothing without imagination to continue it. Imagination goes beyond knowledge or what is already known and makes using present knowledge to gain future knowledge possible.
From a strictly personal perspective and as an advocate of the arts, I agree with Einstein and his assertion of the importance of imagination over knowledge. Deprived of imagination, humans would lose the link between knowledge and further intelligent thought. On the other hand, this creative process involving the imaginative power of the human mind is only able to properly function with knowledge as its basis. Therefore, it is only with the existence of both imagination and knowledge that we are able to reach our highest point of achievement.