The power of imagination

Here’s an interesting quote by Christian Larson:

“Of all the powers of the mind, imagination is the most picturesque, and, in many respects, the most interesting. Without it the world would be barren. Not merely would there be no pictures, no music, no books, but there would be no houses, no bridges, no ocean greyhounds, no great business enterprises — nothing, in fact; for everything that man has made has been first conceived in the imagination before it was born into actual being.

We cannot think of a person being without any power of imagination; for that is an impossibility. But many, many people, I am sorry to say, are greatly deficient in imagination; and this lack of imagination alone is enough to render them commonplace, uninteresting, and of little use or significance in the world.

A man or woman may be deficient in imagination and yet be honest, straightforward, hard working, conscientious. But for such a man or such a woman the higher rewards of life are hopelessly unattainable. He or she may make an excellent bookkeeper, but never an accountant; a skillful typist, but never a secretary; a faithful stock- boy, but never a salesman. The accountant, the secretary, the salesman, must have imagination.

Of course when it comes to any actual creative work — painting, sculpture, musical composition, literature — the power of imagination, highly trained, refined, daring, and vivid, is the great essential. The creators of famous masterpieces have, in instances, lacked everything else but this one thing — imagination. Some of the great artists have lived all their lives in misery and want. Some have been ignorant, some have been coarse, some have been immoral, some have been eccentric, some have been almost or quite insane. But one thing all have possessed in common, and that is — a superb imagination.

In no respect, I believe, do men differ so widely as in the power and activity of their faculty of imagination. Hundreds of men and women have walked and sat in the old country churchyard, and no one had observed there anything that was especially interesting or picturesque. But one day there came to the churchyard a man with a fine imagination, a poet. He saw more than mere grass and trees and headstones; and he gave to the world the most perfect poem in the English language. His name was Thomas Gray, and the poem was the famous “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.”

Thousands of people had seen an apple fall from a tree to the ground. But one day a man with a great imagination saw that commonplace thing. His imagination seized upon it, and he propounded Newton’s theory of the law of gravitation, one of the most important achievements in the whole history of human thought.

Another man sees his mother’s teakettle boiling. He observes that the lid is raised by the expanding steam. His great imagination starts from this homely detail; and he gives to the world — the steam engine. Napoleon, poor, obscure, hungry, trudging up and down the streets of Paris in search of employment, dreams of making all Europe one vast empire — his empire. And he all but succeeds.

And so we might go on indefinitely. Enough, perhaps, to repeat that the world’s masters have always been possessed of fine and daring imagination, and that, without great powers of imagination, there can be accomplished no great or important work of any nature whatever.”


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