This is an essay I wrote for WIT's President's Scholarship. I am pleased to say that I won it. See pithy remarks for my personal comments.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge” —Albert Einstein
Please respond to the quote above and explain its meaning to you.
The mind is an amazing phenomenon that humans are fortunate to have. Within the bowels of the cranium, the nooks and crannies of the brain, the mind miraculously holds both imagination and knowledge. It would be very difficult, if at all possible, to make due with just one of them. However, the human imagination far transcends the knowledge we may possess. Knowledge is essentially quite limited, but imagination stretches what we know in capacities none of us would expect.
Most commonly, imagination is simply the process of creating mental images or concepts in the head. It is invaluable for drawing ideas and models before undertaking their physical counterparts. As much as knowledge may seem useful, it is only meaningful to a small degree without imagination. For instance, as I read a beautifully crafted novel about the plight of a young knight, my mind absorbs the text and interprets it into what I know about the hero, his situation, location, allies, enemies, thoughts, and emotions. Still, unless there are accompanying pictures of every scene, it is difficult for me to actually visualize the hero, as he slays a dragon. But with imagination, the words become the embodiment of the brave paladin riding his armored mare through the quiet, aromatic forest of paragraphs, searching for the sanctimonious phrase, “Holy Grail”. Surprisingly, the imagination is very flexible; the savory taste of the wine in the Holy Grail may seem outright strong in my head but more subtle to the mind of another person. This mere act of conjuring up images, senses, concepts, and ideas is indeed very powerful and stimulating, a staple of what every human should experience at least once in life.
Imagination also has another important meaning, both in the literal sense and to me. In times of great difficulty, knowledge can only be so supportive. Take for an example the frustrating tasks of an information technology employee leading his small team in a large technology dependent company with little accommodations for the poor workers. Comprehension of the complicated network system of servers and understanding of the software used to implement the numerous databases is astonishingly not enough to sustain the company. The IT leader must use his mind to the fullest extent to overcome all the obstacles he will face. In this case, imagination is the solution; being able to confront the challenges and resolve them in extraordinary ways is beyond what knowledge is capable of. In the wake of budget constraints, the IT leader has his team virtualize the servers, reusing hardware and saving energy. With the acquisition of new software, the IT leader and his team simultaneously install it over the network instead of painstakingly doing it one machine at a time. During times of low demand and slow business, the IT leader keeps his team busy and motivated by starting a mini scavenger hunt, leading his team members to improve bits of the network while learning new techniques. The possibilities are limitless. The mind and imagination can take knowledge down many resourceful routes in the ever confusing labyrinth of life’s obstacles.
While knowledge is the earth and literally all we know about it, its habitants, environments, governments, economies, problems, and solutions, the imagination is an infinite magnitude larger, covering the entire universe, and perhaps, is boundless. We owe it all to their faithful cooperation that we have advanced societies and technologies that allow us to live more easily and intelligently. Nonetheless, I will always revere imagination much more highly, as its very essence allows us to be uniquely human.