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Our most amazing ability

August 2, 2011
By Joyce Schenk, COLUMNIST
Each of us is blessed with an inborn gift we use constantly during childhood, but, as we mature into adults, many of us ignore this talent or lose confidence in its power. In so doing, we allow it to slip away.

That amazing gift is imagination.

One of the most brilliant men in recent history, Albert Einstein, said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

He added, “For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” Einstein concluded, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Do you remember those childhood years when a blanket thrown over a card table became a fort? When a towel draped around our shoulders turned into a cape transforming us into superheros? All this, and countless other bits of whimsy, bubbled up directly from our active imaginations.

Day in and day out, we are surrounded by inventions born in the imaginations of creative thinkers. From the automobile to the airplane, from Velcro to the Frisbee, all began in someone’s mind as a creative thought.

That imaginative spark led John Montague, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, to an invention enjoyed the world over today. Montague loved eating and loved playing cards. He used his imagination to come up with a way to do both at the same time. The result was the sandwich.

Unfortunately, as we get caught up in the demands and stresses of our day-to-day duties, we often set aside our inborn imagination in favor of mater-of-fact logic. Science tells us that the logical left-brain is responsible for such activities as balancing the check book, driving the car and calculating the income tax.

But the creative ideas that for centuries have moved mankind forward have come from the right-brain imaginations of those who have dared to dream.

Although few of us are involved in such imagination-based endeavors as creating art with oil on canvas or writing a symphony, each of us has endless opportunities to exercise our imaginations.

As a life-long devotee of words, I’ve developed a sure-fire plan to while away those delays at the doctor’s office, at the garage while the car is serviced or marking time until a friend joins me for lunch. In these instances, I never browse through the magazines provided nor tap my fingers impatiently. Instead, I look around until I find a long and inviting word. I’ve played this imagination-base game with such starting points as “patients,” “lubrication” and “salad plate.” My goal is to make as many different words as possible from only the letters included in my springboard word.

I’ve become so involved in this imagination-stretching exercise that I have to be roused from my concentration when the doctor is ready, the car is done or my friend shows up.

The same kind of mind-involving activity can be enjoyed by creating a personal collage from pictures clipped from magazines, from spending fifteen minutes sketching, regardless of your talent level — the exercise is the goal — or simply setting aside five or ten minutes a day for day dreaming. Whatever method you chose, you’ll find your imagination, like a muscle, will respond to exercise by becoming stronger and more resilient.

As Henry David Thoreau said, “The world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

With a little encouragement, you might be the one to imagine the next Teflon or Frisbee — or some undreamed of new creation that could change the world.


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