“Those who do not know the torment of unknown, cannot have the joy of discovery.”
There is always an element of uncertainty in the unknown, yet it is beautiful. The possibility that “it might work” brings a feeling of excitement and fills us with life. And even if didn’t, there is no harm in exploring. As we have often read, “the course to your aim is more beautiful than the destination itself”.
That said, we should know what is actually imagination and knowledge and why there is a tussle to declare one superior than the other. Can we work taking both of them together or one is necessarily superior to the other?
The answers to all these queries depends upon the context or the person we are talking. Many among us place greater importance over knowledge. Without facts and data; without being practical, life can’t be sustained- this is what rationalist think of. There is another totally polar opposite squad of Dreamers & achievers- Those who spend significant portion of their day imagining and wandering into wild fantasies of ideas and possibilities.
For the fact of the matter, of course wild daydreaming leads you nowhere. It is very much like building castles in air. But, if the very same thinking is provided with a base to rest upon and rise, it can undoubtedly lead to miracles. Imagination provides one the confidence to dream and explore their abilities. Knowledge provides those dreams the very base to rise upon and thereby lead to new knowledge, new set of discoveries and sometimes totally new doors to an altogether different world of possibilities.
To provide evidence in order to substantiate the argument, let’s start from the very beginning. What if prehistoric human beings never imagined themselves to progress in life? They would have certainly always remained cavemen. The existing set of knowledge of course did not support their imagination. But they tried, dreamed, explored, risked their lives and strived so as to be at the superior position today among all animals living on the planet earth. This is the power of imagination- It motivates you to go out of your comfort zone to achieve the impossible. It provided them with the way out & hence imagination wandered wildly to discover a new world.
Here we can see that knowledge is to imagination is very much like what honeycomb is to honey. Imagination is incomplete without existing knowledge, efforts and experimentation. It is not that one is superior to the other; rather there is a complementary relation between them. If applied intelligently, together they can do wonders. And hence it differs from context to context that which side matters more.
Think about this- what the existing knowledge says about differently abled people? It says since they are not completely supported by their body, hence they can’t really achieve what a normal bodied person can do. But somewhere sometime, someone imagined himself/herself to touch the skies ignoring and surpassing all the physical difficulties and they really did it. Had they believed the knowledge, the wings of abilities would have never flied freely in the skies of dreams. Here obviously imagination defied the knowledge and hence a totally new set of inspiration born out of it. Arunima Sinha, Sudha Chandran, Sir Stephen hawking are just few names among those shining stars.
It was imagination which led to the weaving of a fantasy world called Hogwarts, based on a novel; imagination led our forefathers to believe that India would certainly be out of foreign rule and be independent; imagination of human beings flying like bird led to the inventions of Plane; imagination of communicating with someone far away gave birth to postal letters, telephones, mobile phones, internet, email, etc.; imagination of a better society inspires leaders, civil society members and other people to strive for the best living conditions in spite of all the difficulties in India; imagination of women rising and being independent lead to the up-liftment of women in India.
When ideas fuel inspiration, the in-between state that leads to action is imagination. We crossed the oceans to discover new lands, invented the means to travel the world, reached for the stars and landed on the moon. All that started as an idea first held in the minds of imagination.
Imagination comes with only one restriction- one should strive to fill colours in it. Otherwise it is null and void. It might be that sometimes there are no existing set of tools to hinge upon. That means sometimes the existing knowledge might not support your belief but that doesn’t mean the thing can’t happen. All one has to do is to strive to make it true. In that sense, on can easily conclude that imagination is what leads to progress. If you can’t imagine a better world, if you can’t look up to the sky, how come you ever dream to fly high?
Of course, imagination is not enough. If you are highly imaginative but have inadequate knowledge of the facts on the ground, you will very likely choose the wrong option. Even if you have adequate knowledge but do not apply it properly, you are still lost. But we are also capable of using our imaginations to think through a possible action in a more responsible and disciplined way, by letting adequate background knowledge inform the development of the imagined scenario.
Though we can’t really chose one over the other. This is the fact of the matter. Imagination is the basis of happiness in our everyday lives. It may not be as useful as knowledge, but without it, our world would be dominated by science only. Imagination provides entertainment, pastimes, and makes us human and alive. Imagining yourself to be a successful person in future motivates you to work hard in that direction. It is very well said that what you can imagine, you can achieve as well- all you have to do is efforts.
While imagination is the source of inspiration in seeking new knowledge, it can also be dangerous if not subjected to discipline; a fertile imagination needs to be balanced by criticism and judgment. This is, of course, quite different from saying it should be repressed or crushed. The imagination merely enables us to wander into the darkness of the unknown with the dim light of the knowledge that we carry. It might land us up into a treasure; it might land us up into a trash.
Imagination gives ideas to process one’s knowledge. In essence, it makes knowledge worthy of application. Light bulb is a striking example of the same- Edison processed his knowledge of how to make light to make light bulb. While processing, if done rightly can do wonders, and if done without care might lead to disasters. The ways we use and apply knowledge can result into different outcomes. The same radioactive substance- thorium, uranium- can lead to peaceful generation of electricity or destruction of the world through atomic bombs.
What we can really say is imagination and knowledge are more like counterparts. There is no superiority game between the two. And even if we do, it would be like asking which came first- the chicken or the egg? We can spread knowledge but we really cant teach how to imagine. This is one thing an individual has complete and unique control over. And since we know what this treasure called imagination can do, if applied positively, we should certainly encourage students and teachers to think and think think more productively.
To Ask and explore the world of unknown. Who knows these little curious minds of today can become the inspiration of others, tomorrow? All they need is freedom to express and support.