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.