Imagination Over Knowledge, Says Einstein

Updated: Apr 26

A famous quote from a famous man, “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.” [1]

So for anyone that tells you to get your head out the clouds and face the real world, make sure they know that Einstein literally just shamed them.

That’s quite an interesting idea really, one of the most (definitely not the only) remarkable Theoretical Physicists of all time, rated his imagination of higher importance than his level of knowledge. It comes to show that imagination is key to not only artists, writers and musicians, but also to physicists, mathematicians and scientists. If you really think about it, we use our imaginations throughout our daily lives, and therefore it’s key to all of us.

Despite how far we’ve come and progressed as a whole human species (especially in the last 100 years), imagination and creativity still pose themselves to be some of the biggest mysteries of today; “The imagination is one of the most critical factors of the human mind, and defies adequate definition. To describe it as ‘creative, conscious, thought’ is inadequate, because each of the building blocks remains fuzzy” [2].

To this day, our imagination is still not very well understood. However, it can generally be characterized as having the ability to create something you have never come across before, or mentally reinventing something that is already known to you. We often do this without direct stimulation. Wikipedia proposes a definition which I quite like, “Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, peoples and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses” [3].

There are many well known methods of stimulating your imagination, a key one being reading.

Most of today’s successful people come to thank their imagination (coupled with their ability to learn extensively) for their accomplishments, and most of them grew up prolific readers, and still are. To name just a few, these people include the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zukerburg and Elon Musk. We all know that self-help and self-improvement books are extremely powerful tools, even if you don’t read them much yourself. However, it’s not so well known that novels, to many and probably most, are equally powerful.

Novels primarily trigger the imagination; that’s their sole aim and purpose, even more so than non-fiction. Studies have come to show that the act of reading novels is directly linked to bettering and strengthening individuals in areas like sleep, relationships and creativity. Most interestingly, novels are directly linked to reducing stress[4], “Reading can be a wonderful (and healthy) escape from the stress of everyday life” [5]. From my personal experience, it can also have the opposite effect, like when a favourite character dies. Novels are also known to improve a person's ability to empathize, which means better communication and social interaction.

In attempting to find out whether or not these studies are practical in many of our lives today (all of which I can generally vouch for) I have consulted with Interconnected’s first article contributor, and a dear friend of mine, Rayanna Byrne. She states that novels have served her best in making her "compassionate, idealistic and open-minded". Rayanna says that books have "Inspirations and standards to live up to, and choices to avoid". This goes to show, that novels are as important as non-fiction.

She has also found that books have come to reduce stress when all seems rather hard, and that once she escapes she can return to her day with a clearer mind, "If I'm having a stressful day, I do grab a book because it can transport me into a whole new reality. I can forget my problems for a few hours with adventure, mystery or romance."

However, in her experience when it comes to sleep, books don't quite work in her favour, mentioning that "I don't agree that reading is sleep bettering. Maybe it's just me, but if I was reading in the evening, I'm not able to put the book down!" I'm glad that that's the only problem she has with books, most can't pick them up!

If my memory serves me correctly, I would laugh when Rayanna came to school some mornings with just one hour of sleep, due to having read all night.

Lastly, she states that during these crazy and weird times of a pandemic, that "I'd probably be going mad with boredom at this rate without [books]. They are like companions, they're there when you need them most haha".

I want to make an honest claim, in conclusion to this article; that fiction has a valuable role to teach every one of us things about the world, each other, and most importantly - ourselves, of which we may have remained ignorant.

Jack, in collaboration with Rayanna Byrne, at Interconnected.








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