I: Image & Imagination
I: Image & Imagination








Einstein famously said: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’.

He replied when asked by parents who wanted to know how to enhance their children’s intelligence: ‘If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales‘.

Why is this do you think?

The short answer is that the child uses its imagination when hearing or reading the story. There is a fascination about dragons that need to be overcome, dungeons to be explored; or the wicked stepmother lurking in the shadows, or the helpful bird that saves the day; and also a fascination of tales that do not have a neat and happy story line. Children may not have the emotional understanding to relate the tale to their own lives, but it resonates in some way as the fairy tale or myth expresses essential truths about the human condition in a metaphoric way.

As adults we also get lost in gripping tales as images come to mind. We may know that we are not literally Parsifal in search of the Holy Grail; yet in some way we sense that we too seek redemption and healing; and it seems that we too have to go metaphorically through TS Eliot’s ‘wasteland’ as life challenges us.

Image and imagination are inextricably linked. Knowledge is fixed (I’m not knocking knowledge); imagination has no boundaries. The image that emerges from eg a dream requires that it NOT be fixed forever but that it is given room to breath and, more especially, that I engage in it, and allow it the attention that it demands of me and let it act as a psychopomp or daimon (guide) as it changes, moves, up or down, is fed by other images, enlarges, darkens, brightens, surprises and leads me ‘towards‘ – whatever that may be.

Does the artist know the outcome of his painting as his paint brush hovers about the canvas? Does the writer know the final outcome of his words? The poet? Of course there may be an idea of where the work is intended to go – the plan – but as the artist knows, the muse or the imagination may take him or her to places where they never imagined, the door will be kept open, imagery will flow and they will feel the richer for it entering into the ground of uncertainty.

The wound of the Fisher King (the Grail Keeper) is healed and transformation happens when Parcifal poses the socially uncomfortable yet conscious question:’Whom does the Grail serve?’ It is a metaphor for the question we could ask of ourselves as we play with the image using our imagination.

27 Comments on I : Image & Imagination

  1. You’ve got me thinking again. As an artist, I’m definitely a realist so I always work from some kind of reference but I think my imagination works it’s way in there and I don’t even know it, it just happens. I’ve recently had the opportunity to illustrate a couple of books and because of the subject matter, I was forced to be much more imaginative.
    Something I enjoyed very much.


    • Thanks Dan for commenting!

      Great that you felt those imaginative cells expanding there when illustrating books – and you enjoyed it!!!!

  2. Susan, I read your educational posting on “imagination” and I read your Facebook posting this morning. In fact, I was delighted that Elizabeth Wat Gibson read my blog and commented on the story about my mother.

    However, more to the point is that my next story for my blog is about my imagination and how I used it as a child. So many people strive to limit imagination… it’s too bad. I love your wisdom. Thank you.

    • Thanks Gwynn!

      How great that EWG read your post. She comments on my A-Z posts – if you click on her name a few up from right here, you will access her and you can comment on her posts?

      Have you got a new post up on your blog? I don’t know about this?

  3. Beautiful post, Susan, on a favorite topic of mine — imagination. Einstein’s quote is one I think should be taught in parenting classes. 🙂

    “Image and imagination are inextricably linked. Knowledge is fixed (I’m not knocking knowledge); imagination has no boundaries.” I loved these words! The idea that knowledge is fixed and imagination has no boundaries should open the world and all in it to a wealth of education that cannot be provided within the four walls of any school building.

    One thing I think that is missing in our culture today is the reading to our children which evokes the necessity for the imagination to kick in. Or, as in my childhood (I now date myself), we listened to radio programs and one had to imagine what things looked like, what the characters looked like, what they were doing when certain words were used. Too much time is spent not using and teaching our children to use that wonderful gift of imagining!

    • Thanks so much Sherrey for commenting.

      We too listened to radio programmes when we were young! O it was the highlight of the week!

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if kids read more – if their imaginations were opened up or freed and stretched. If their teachers could encourage them in this …

  4. Thoughtful post Susan. A couple things come to mind–one is, which came first, imagination or knowledge? (it really doesn’t matter, just a different spin on the question)

    The other is, I would like to see schools dimmer the value they place on test scores, seeing that too much emphasis is relied up one single number, a fixed indicator of knowledge.

    • Thanks Ryan for stopping by. Yes it would be great if less emphasis was put on test scores – too fixed.

      I reckon imagination and knowledge are linked. Which came first? Interesting question! The creation of our world is highly imaginative! As is every single creature and object in it ..

  5. Another wonder post and beautifully written. I love this: “yet in some way we sense that we too seek redemption and healing; and it seems that we too have to go metaphorically through TS Eliot’s ‘wasteland’ as life challenges us.” Yes!

    I thought you might enjoy this of King and Niffenegger talking about imagination. PS: I thought you were more eloquent.

    • Thanks so much Elizabeth!
      And for the Audrey Niffenegger and Stephen King link – I just listened now. Interesting about Audrey saying she keeps things ‘behind her back’ because she prefers ambiguity, which would surely pique the reader’s imagination; but she says she gets e mails from her readers saying they want to KNOW what’s what. She tells them that if she wanted them to know she would have told them!

  6. I’ve always loved that quote. (And most of Einsteins, especially the one about judging a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree!)

    Imagination has fueled most of the knowledge we have. It is only by people wondering ‘what if’, that we have invented amazing technology, and it’s only by people asking ‘why’ that we’ve discovered scientific facts. Without imagination, the world would stand still.

    Rinelle Grey

    • Thanks Rinelle!

      Imagine the world standing still ..

      Roald Dahl’s books for children come to mind .. a child cannot help but be charmed by his weird and wonderful stories and have his/her imagination running wild!

  7. WOW Lisa! That is so so .. words fail me but thank you very much indeed! I hope you find some value in it!

    I’ll check the vision and verb now thank you.

    I’ll be coming back to you …

  8. I just bought your book, also, wanted to let you know about another blog that you might like, or have heard of, called Your blog makes me think you might like this one. There is a woman there who also lives in South Africa and she takes photos as well as writes on that blog. Hope you enjoy and come back for a visit to mine…

  9. Thank you so much Lisa!

    Interesting isn’t it that the story rarely goes we initially imagined!

    Hope the A-Z is going well with you and I am so pleased you stopped by – am heading over to you now.

  10. This is a great post. I especially related to the second to the last paragraph. As I writer I enjoy the process of finding out where the story goes, as it rarely travels the path I thought it would. Good luck with your A to Z challenge. Looks like you’re doing really well! Glad to have found you through your post on WRITERachael.

  11. Simply beautiful, Susan.
    A very in depth explanation of what imagination is, and how important it is not only to the artist but to everyone who wishes to live life successively.
    Our imagination helps us find solutions, creative solutions that were never thought of before. We learn how to think outside of the box.
    Thank you for stepping outside of the box and writing this from your heart. I felt the love.


    • Thank you so much Patricia!

      “We learn how to think outside of the box”. That puts it so well. And as you say not only for artists but for all who wish to live life successfully.



  12. Thank you very much Barbara. ‘Grail’ is such a suitable metaphor isn’t it. You say ‘to ponder the reason why we search’ … what an important way of putting it, thank you! You see, I really do learn something new from comments!

  13. I really like this post – especially the question at the end: ’Whom does the Grail serve?’ We all have our grails, our quests and questions. Yet I believe few of us actually stop to ask this question, to ponder the reason for our search or our endeavours. Thanks for the beautiful thoughts and for probing beyond the surface!

  14. Kids these days also need some free, unstructured time to use their imagination. I like the picture you used to illustrate this post.

  15. The only tricky part is to know when to stop and accept that your imagination has done its job. The rest is a natural process *if you are brave enough to let it channel in.

    I am really enjoying your A-Z series Susan. Will you send an email when you post as I see I am a few letters behind! I am off to check ‘H’ – were you aware I am a trained hairdresser/cosmetitian? Happy to say goodbye to those long days on my feet being nice for hours on end !! I am joking of course 🙂 – it was very rewarding in many ways.

    • Thanks for commenting Lesley – I appreciate this very much!

      The imagination can go into overdrive, as I well know … and it can also be over stimulating. But to give it its free flow is, as you imply, a natural process. And it would know when it is time to make form out of imagination …

      No, I didn’t know that you were a hairdresser/cosmetician! I’ll go back and check on the “H’ to see if you left a comment! I would have liked to have you as my hair person.

      Lesley, I think if you enter your e mail address (which I can’t see right now, I think it says ‘subscribe’) on the rhs, you would automatically receive any new blogs?

      Thank you again!

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