“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein.
Do you still remember this statement? Or you might not have ever heard that before. Nevertheless, many of nowadays’ teachers tend to suppress their students, forcing them to ‘stop imagine, get back to reality, and focus on obtaining knowledge’. There is a bit mistake in terms of vocabulary, because there is more precise word to replace ‘imagine’ word, indeed with ‘daydream’. But, what if all the people suddenly stop imagining, especially given the thought that it is all imagination that gave birth to all fields of knowledge we are studying today?
If it were not for this magical, invisible device deeply attached within our brains, we would not have had a fluorishing civilization. Or, to the lesser extent, becoming human, like what we are today. Imagination has helped shaping us for thousands and thousands of years. Do not ever underestimate this device, because from imagination – always from it – there might come out plethora of ideas, pantheon of dreams, and numberless discoveries and inventions. Pyramids came from the imagination of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs hundreds of dozens of years ago, we all needed to thank the ancient Sumerians, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, and etc, because they helped inventing mathematics, we needed to pay a tribute to Sun Tzu because of his ‘Art of War’, because if it were not for his ideas, corporations and endless countries would not have succeeded today. With imagination, our societies began to be divided and, honestly to say, more ‘well-controlled’. Firstly, in the prehistoric periods, people were divided into clans. Slowly but surely, as more people began to abandon the multi-generational habit of hunting-gathering, societies began to be much more diversified, and therefore, much more difficult to be understood. Laws – also a product of imagination by those tribal chiefs – began to take place to restore order. Then, as civilization began to advance, with people slowly getting adjusted to agriculture, emperors and rulers began to expand the territories. But, at the same time, there had already been dozens of various clans, or some kind of ‘mini-empires’, each one clashing against each other in order to take control of certain areas or places. Then, imagination again gave them a few more ideas – military, metallurgy, and war tactics. To protect certain areas, people had to be trained, and be disciplined harsher, so that they might be strict anytime the faraway enemies attempted to conquer. Swords, chariots, arrows, spears, etc, were massively manufactured in order to equip the troops. Societies in the world commenced to be even much more complicating than before, with many events taking place throughout the history, like wars, trading routes, migration by certain ethnicities to faraway lands, and etc.
Let me assure you (from now on, it is optional whether you want to follow my advice or not), imagination itself is as limitless as the universe we live in. Like the picture shown above, perhaps your imagination might be that larger. The ‘official’ statement that the universe’s radius is 13.5 billion light years is logically doubtful, because there have been no sciennauts trying to make a more-than-light-speed rocket to cross that limit. Assume that galaxy has 1 trillion stars. Let me create a galaxy of my own: it has 2 trillion stars, 200 billion of which are similar to our own Sun, with 400 billion Earth-like planets, and countless, countless (I don’t want to let these numbers to mess up in this article; statisticians and economists like to confuse us with numbers) intelligent species. It’s the proof, right? That’s what most of the sci-fi authors like the most. Just check out what is in George Lucas’ brain, whether his brain is a set of smartly-designed chips or just merely an organ that’s as soft as avocado, like those of ours. I confess, compared to other authors, sci-fi and fantasy authors are the most imaginative of their own kind. See how George Lucas created his own galactic empire named ‘Star Wars’, or how Gene Roddenberry mismashed everything in ‘Star Trek’. J.R.R.Tolkien could even create his own language, his own nations, his own creatures, geographically-detailed places, all the mythological worlds, all based on his own imagination. Agatha Christie had a such sharpened brain (or a sharpened pencil, maybe?) that she could puzzle almost all of us with her uneasily guessed detective stories.
Some of the world leaders, throughout the history, had been historically proven that their imagination was not inferior to that of these greatest authors and filmmakers. Emperor Qin Shi Huang dreamt of an idea of ‘putting a thousand-km-long barrier across the northern part of China’, and since then, millions of peasants were forcefully recruited to accomplish what might be called as ‘The Great Walls’. (notes: despite strength, the Mongolians and the barbaric tribes of the north in the long run managed to conquer China, because the officers taking an eye to these walls had been bribed so frequently by the raiders, and Ripley’s claim that ‘the only structure that’s able to be seen from Moon is Great Wall’ is totally proven as a hoax.) George Washington (and thanks to his secretaries, his wife, his supporters, and hundred thousands of unnamed people who supported his idea) created United States of America, Napoleon Bonaparte – once the shortest troop among his regiment – in the end could expand his territory until Moscow, and therefore, was solely eligible on most parts of Europe. (don’t forget hundred thousands of troops who died in order to accomplish his missions) Emperor Meiji began mass efforts of modernization and Westernization in Japan, Emperor Shah Jahan was the very first man to put the idea of Taj Mahal into practice – despite the facts that all the construction workers were beheaded, the architects had their hands amputated, as a ‘sign of merciless thank-you gratitude’ after accomplishing the mausoleum. Adolf Hitler, no matter how fucking evil he was, could unify the entire Germany and strengthened them in all aspects. President John F. Kennedy was the first president to envision a plan of sending men into the Moon’s surface – once again, despite several doubts about the accuracy of the event. All these marvels were impossible to be created from farting, or came out of their buttocks, but these all emerged out from their imagination, from these omnipower brains. All right, another ‘despite’; despite the huge, sometimes terrible, costs they had to pay as the consequence.
Scientists need to imagine more often than economists; most of the economists prefer ‘predicting’ to ‘imagining’ about the future economy (so, in conclusion, these economists had better be renamed as ‘financial soothsayers’?). Albert Einstein became so phenomenal for his relativity theory, which appeared during his daydreaming of someone coming across a star with a speed-light rocket, which then became the main source for quantum physics, and specifically, the ’embryo’ behind the idea of nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants, nuclear fission, thermonuclear fusion, and a long list to go on. Honestly, as someone who is so-so in physics, I have no idea in understanding clearly about these terms. Isaac Newton obtained the idea of gravitational forces from an apple; whether the apple he saw had maggots or not was not specifically written in his biography. Even if there had been maggots, they might be disappointed because they did not appear in any pictures portraying Newton and the apple. Wernher von Braun was so ingenious and imaginative that almost all the great powers wanted to have him to make rockets for the countries. United States, perhaps because they had much more ample money, decided to have von Braun as the first administrator of NASA. ‘The idea of cloning also originated from imagination; perhaps the creators did not want people to tiringly have sex with their counterparts in order to have children. But this idea is thoroughly inhumane, even if I could honestly explain, mean-spirited. Despite the fact that imagination has no limit and is as spacious as the universe is, we can’t poke fun at nature. Of course it is so unethical to create a ‘pig-faced cow-assed half-human half-monkey hybrid’ (except if you Photoshop), or mix the genes of dinosaurs with those of houseflies or tomatoes. There is always something larger than life – call it God, karma, whatsoever – that preserves all the equilibrium in this universe. Once you toy with the universe, it echoes back towards you.
But, most importantly, the most important invention that has ever happened in the history of human civilization in the last 10 thousand years is Internet. Thanks to the imagination of Timothy Lee Berners, who firstly invented ‘HTML’, Internet is evolving, with 200 million websites, and perhaps, more than 3 billion pages available, available virtually everywhere in this planet. You can now say hello to a friend in Greenland at the same time you are in Indonesia through Facebook. You can ‘follow up’ what on earth is Justin Bieber doing on Twitter. You can instantly see all the grand revolutions now happening in Middle East and North Africa nowadays in leaps and bounds, in no time. But, remember, larger benefits also indicate larger vulnerabilities; with Google, Yahoo, or all these remarkably out-of-the-way search engines, you now have access to 42 million porn sites worldwide (it’s up to you whether you want to browse it or not, as long as you don’t open these sites in the offices, because that might get you fired. One of our country’s parliament members had recently resigned after getting caught by mass media looking atthe images of nude women during a parliamentary session), some of which are known to be spams or viruses; propaganda efforts are eased, because anonymity at the same time can be preserved. For example, recent efforts of misunderstood jihad (factually, jihad is defined as an effort to fight against oneself, poverty, and stupidity, but some of them had insanely misused this concept), hate groups, hate sites, are emerging worldwide. Because this is Internet, some think that ‘okay, it’s free to insult others as we like’, and, this is the consequence. Internet is becoming into, more precisely to say, ‘a virtual jungle’, in which you may be tricked into its phantasmagorism, but don’t let these harmful ‘beasts’ take you away. These beasts no longer bite you by teeth; they seduce you.
Imagination also helped tiding up societies. The very first laws were known as Codex Hammurabi, which contained 300 stipulations about ’cause-and-effect’; for example, one who fractured another one’s arm would have to have his arm fractured, as well. So, one who raped must be raped, too? Your guess is as good as mine; just ask the archaeologists or the historians for more evidence. Imagination also gave momentum for the establishment of cities, towns, and all their systems. Firstly, administrations were introduced, authorities were set up (and, hence, there came bureaucrats), streets were built, healthcare centers were built, schools were built, markets were built, people began to apply economy into practice, taxation (perhaps the legal word for ‘robbery’) was introduced, while in some towns or cities, slaves were bought or sold as if they were like sheets of carton-made stocks traded in stock exchanges, castles or palaces were erected. Meanwhile, some of the cities began to produce historical milestones. Rome was the first city in the world with population up to 1 million, Timbuktu was regarded as the ‘Harvard of Sahara’ for centuries, where all the educated and the educators lived in multi-storey houses made of mud, while Beijing had Forbidden City, and Manhattan was the first place in the world to experience skyscraper boom, and also the very first one to have a 100-storey skyscraper erected within, etc. Most of the time, civilization tended to be the most well-developed in cities and towns, which is why many villagers tended to migrate, although at a slow pace, until the momentum of Industrial Revolution in the end of 18th century.
Imagination also helped shaping our spiritual beliefs. At the very first historical periods, we paid respect to our ancestors, or all things that were considered sacred, for example, mountains, huge stones, rivers, forests, etc. Particularly, this was because of our amazement upon all these grandiose natural-made wonders, thus, there was tendency among us that ‘something larger than life’ must have been responsible upon all these spectacular processes. Different places create different cultures, and different cultures also create different ways to pay respect for that ‘something larger than life’. Some tribes might regard mountain as the place where deities live, or oceans as where majestic – whether non-human, semi-human, or fully human depends on their imagination – gods and goddesses reside in. Meanwhile, some cultures might be a bit savage. For example, Aztecs in the past used to sacrifice humans’ lives in Tenochtitlan (now known as Mexico City), then took away their hearts, in order to be presented to Kukulkan, one of the Aztecs’ gods. They believed that by doing so might strengthen them (in what aspects?), meanwhile one primitive tribe in Papua (Indonesian part of Papua, precisely) is still known to behead the head of a woman who is convicted of a sin, then consumes the head away.
Now, this is the problem with imagination: it doesn’t know, or maybe doesn’t need to, whether it is good or evil. Wars are examples; emperors, rulers, and leaders struggled for the sake of their countries, emperors, clans, or kingdoms, even though at the expense of countless lives. But, without the rulers, societies might be out of control, because there are no more laws to keep them in orders. What we need are wise, democratic, understanding, knowledgeable, and smart leaders. Sometimes, imagination can be extremely perilous if it is implemented. Imagination gave birth to Holocaust, don’t you believe it? So was Khmer Rouge, in which Pol Pot dreamt of a ‘utopian agricultural hegemony’, and therefore, sacrificed almost 2 million people in order to realize his vision. Imagination also might be the source for many justified murders that are now taking place worldwide; this is insane, and this has to be stopped.
Like at that picture above, actually you have imagined it. Even imagining that might be a bit depressing for you.
In conclusion, you can’t realize your own imagination yourself. Almost everything around the world is a result of mergers of many people’s imagination. Cities are built because the city planners, the businessmen, and particularly, almost everyone, co-operate together in combining their ideas, so that cities can operate. Most of the countries survive (but few don’t) because governments and people can exchange ideas and visions. Everything you can see here is a combination of countless ideas. The world functions because of imagination, and ideas that are combined. Without imagination, civilization will entirely stop to a halt. Anytime the teachers tell you to ‘stop imagine’, consider back that statement.
Do you have any ‘galaxies’ that are larger than mine?