Einstein wasn’t kidding when he said that imagination is more important than knowledge.
I woke up this morning in the dark, noticing that I could see the fire alarm on the ceiling in far greater detail. Only a week ago, I recall seeing only the pale green dot that was the alarm test button. Now I see that dot plus a halo of green light around that dot where the light from the LED shines under the base of the fire alarm. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been eating carrot sticks for snacks, and it shows. I was not just imagining things.
I woke up this morning thinking about Einstein again. I remembered this quote of him:
“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
I think imagination is far more important than Einstein even realized. As I write this, I’m reminded of another theory, The Interface Theory Of Perception, posited by Dr. Donald Hoffman. Hoffman tells us that 1/3 of the brain is devoted to vision. According to him, our brains are constantly engaged in the process of recreating reality. That is to say, everything we see we must imagine in order to “see it”.
That means that imagination is required for the acquisition of all knowledge. We do not see anything when the light enters our eyes. What we see is only what we imagine when the brain processes the light that enters our eyes. Blind people must imagine everything around them to move about and get their needs met. I’ve experimented with this myself by closing my eyes to perform a task. When my eyes are closed, I must imagine what I’m doing.
When I read a book, I use my imagination to understand the words on multiple levels. I must imagine that the words have meaning. I must imagine the meaning conveyed by the words I read. I must imagine what it must be like to be in the world posed by the author of the book. I must imagine that I’m reading a book, seeing the words.
As I sit here writing, I think about writing. If I need to pee after drinking water, I imagine myself getting up to pee. I imagine myself setting the laptop to the side, with the pillow, removing the blanket, and lifting myself up to walk. I can see myself walking to the bathroom before I go there. I imagine everything that I do before I do it. I don’t believe you are any different.
I have considered other possibilities, and I see none. Imagination isn’t just more important than knowledge. Imagination is required for the acquisition of knowledge, for we must imagine what we are learning in order to assimilate it.