From Einstein to Google: why your imagination counts

Zara DeGroot

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Zara DeGroot

When we were children, our imaginations ran wild — one day we were a prince or a princess, and the next day we were avoiding the deathly lava of the playground at recess. I was definitely one of the many whose childhood imaginations got the best of them. In first grade, I read a book called “The Island of the Blue Dolphins.” Upon completing the novel, I devoted my attention and skills to constructing a new dwelling made out of two pop-up tents that closely resembled the one the main character Karana had made out of whale bones. I spent the following week as a Native American living on an abandoned island with my feral dog Rontu.

Albert Einstein once said, “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.” C.S. Lewis also describes the imagination as “the organ of meaning.”

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The human imagination makes it possible for us to experience and create entire worlds within our very own minds. And in a society where we are constantly classifying the rights and the wrongs, it can be refreshing to enter into a mental landscape where possibilities are endless and all creative power lies in your hands.

However, as we outgrow the years of dodging dragon flames and pretending we are royalty, we often lose sight of our imaginings. Our creative originality can be stunted when we meet standardized testing, filling in pages of blank bubbles and being scored on how well we can regurgitate facts. Now, I could rant about the flaws in our education system, but that’s beside the point. The matter at hand is, our imagination can be our best tool, and we must not lose touch of it because it can generate change.

Think of it this way: How did Thomas Edison come up with the idea for the lightbulb? What prompted Steve Jobs to create Apple and everything within? Surely J.K. Rowling didn’t Google story prompts about wizards. And someone must have used their creativity to think up Google (yes, it was Larry Page and Sergey Brin). So, you see, most of the world’s greatest innovators have used their imaginations to dream, envision, create and change.

Not only is your imagination a motor of innovation, it is also the best way to escape reality. Feeling down about being weird and gross? Imagine that you are cool and awesome. Voila — you’ve changed your reality.

Consider your imagination like any other muscle in your body. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised and stretched to operate properly. And out of all the muscles that could be exercised, what better than the mind? Stretching your creative muscle can be as simple as picking up a book and spending an hour reading. In fact, it’s been proven that reading fiction flexes the imagination and improves brain connectivity. According to a Psychology Today article, “reading a good novel allows your imagination to take flight. Novels allow you to forget about your day-to-day troubles and to transport yourself to a fantasy world that becomes a reality in your mind’s eye.”

But utilizing creative flair doesn’t stop at reading a book. Put your creativity to use by putting your own twist on a dinner recipe or taking the time to jot down your thoughts and musings. Learning a phrase in a different language or playing a few notes on the piano can also do the trick. Even thinking up an obscure-yet-hilarious tweet to add to your Twitter feed taps into your imagination.

The world can always use a little more color, fresh ideas and new breakthroughs. It is never too late to exercise your brain’s creativity and get those juices flowing. The imagination is more than an ethereal diversion — it’s an instrument with the potential to create change.

Collegian Columnist Zara DeGroot is sometimes too lazy to bend her elbows, but can still be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @zar_degroot.