Why Einstein Believed Imagination was More Important than Knowlwdge

Albert Einstein’s quotes are very popular these days, and some of them have an eerily prophetic voice that speaks, it seems, for the exact age in which we now live. The queer thing that gets me most about Einstein, for all his absurdly astonishing contributions to the strict, hard science of Physics, is that he just never acted all that impressed with knowledge and technology. In fact, he often warned about the negative effects technology could have on people. Instead he went out of his way to extol the virtue and pre-eminence of imagination. Here is the quote:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein

Why would he say that?

Einstein lived in the spectacular golden age of science. Comprehension about the human body, our world and even the universe – from the infinitesimally small to the infinitely colossal – grew at an exponential rate. The information and knowledge gathered in that era paved the way for almost all the great technological advances that we enjoy (or fear) today.

I think Einstein believed in the superiority of imagination because knowledge has a severe limitation. I don’t mean it is limited in that there is still so much we do not know about the universe, for example. Of course there is much to learn, but it is imagination rather than knowledge that allows us to figure out how to do it. Simply put, we were never going to put a man on the moon until someone dreamed it could be done. Likewise, a cure for cancer or AIDS will not be found until some creative soul expands the limits of knowledge and starts thinking, or better, imagining, “what if we do this?”

Imagination fuels the advancement of knowledge; not merely by fits and starts, but by factorial leaps. Is it really a stretch, then, to say this is a great foundation for teaching a child? Learning by drill and repetition bores most children to abject misery. No wonder so many boys, given their propensity for restlessness, especially have trouble in traditional schools. Educators and parents would do well to lead children into asking the big questions (who, what, how, why) and encouraging them to dream, to imagine what is not and to believe they can make a difference.

So if you are wondering if your child’s time is best spent memorizing multiplication tables or studying the planets as opposed to playing with Legos, without a doubt, I believe Einstein would suggest your child build a spaceship.

A Rant of Historical Proportion

I love history. I enjoy the subject so much that way, way back in college I earned a degree in history – for fun. Chemistry was my real choice of study. Yes, I am fully aware I am a geek on a higher level than most can even imagine.

Though I have that degree, I cannot call myself an historian. I am not even an amateur historian. I just love the discipline – like a baseball fan loves the sport.

I’ve recently seen some posts on social media that lead me to believe a lot of folks may not quite understand some basic historical concepts. Or, perhaps they may ignore them for their own purposes, whether that might be political, social or cultural. Here are a few things I find particularly troublesome:

Judging people from a bygone era by today’s standards. We do not occupy the moral high ground on progress (of any kind) simply because we have seen more of it. Indeed, the groundwork for all we enjoy today is the result of the smallest (yet far braver) steps made in the past. To borrow a phrase, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Trivializing the mores and folkways of the past by insisting that, had you been born into a previous era, you would have boldly stood up for the causes you find so dear today. The reality is almost every one of us would have desperately tried our best to fit in. It always has taken incredible courage to be a lone voice crying for change, and the truth is most of us do not have that kind of pluck.

Finally, there is a growing hostility toward organized religion, especially the Christian Church. A lot of the animus is justified. I get that. Still, from an historical viewpoint, you have to dance with the one who brung you, even if there are prettier girls at the club. An intellectually honest person understands the freedoms and progress we enjoy today is a result of the survival and advancement of western civilization, of which, since the collapse of the Greco-Roman world, that ornery, off-maligned institution known as the Church has been its guardian. We do not get to pretend otherwise.

A hundred years from now, the world will be a vastly different place. When the inhabitants of the future look back at our place in history, I’m sure they will think of us as archaic and backwards, but hopefully they will also believe we did the best we could, and will judge us only on the standards of our time, and not their own.

Of Bullying and other Things that Stink

 

I’m not a big fan of real, live stink bugs. An invasive species that apparently never goes away, they remind me of hungry teens lurking in the kitchen, and especially around the fridge. Then there’s that horrid odor they release. Yeah, that reminds me of teenagers also. At least the bugs don’t leave their smelly sneakers lying anywhere and everywhere around the house.

In the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States where I live, stinkbugs are particularly and unpleasantly present. The attic sitting over the top of my carport must be the hiding place for their mother ship; there might be thousands of those pesky critters holed up in there. They get into everything, even apparently closed boxes and jars. In other places in my country and around the world, stink bugs are not as much of a problem, and the inhabitants of those areas should feel very blessed.

Unfortunately, bullying knows no geographical boundaries. Anyone, at any age, at any time can fall victim to the confusion, humiliation and even physical harm caused by bullying. Young children are especially vulnerable, and in many cases, they lack the experience to even understand what is going on. Many will conclude there is something wrong with them or it is their own fault. Even worse, many bullied children will silently withstand the torment, even though the solution(s) to their problem may be very close. The mere fact they have to endure these situations stinks to high heaven.

But that is not the connection I am trying to make between stink bugs and bullying. In my fictional children’s books about these insects, I make them the good guys who help elementary age children understand difficult issues like bullying. I hope my new book, Don’t let that Bully Bug You! Book Two of the Stinkbug Chronicles, will be a reference point children can turn to so they can get the help they need. I want them to know bullying is not their fault, that there is nothing wrong with them, and most importantly, there is a way out that does not involve them getting hurt. As parents, teachers and administrators, we can help children in these extremely challenging and awkward situations by giving them the tools, resources and support they desperately need. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where the biggest problem for a child is where to put those stinky sneakers?

You Might Be a Grammar Redneck

I’m warning you. I’ve got a semi-colon and I’m not afraid to use it!

With all due respect to Mr. Jeff Foxworthy, the indomitable king of all redneck-related humor, I present to you a major reason some people may have trouble getting on with and communicating effectively with others in this life – they just might be a grammar redneck.

  1. If you think a semi-colon is what’s left after gastric bypass surgery – you might be a grammar redneck.
  2. If you think a comma is what great grandpa slipped into after consuming too much moonshine during the Great depression – you might be a grammar redneck.
  3. If you think conjugation is something you’ll have to “ask the parson about before commentin on it”– you might be a grammar redneck.
  4. If you think an apostrophe is one of the dudes who hung out with Jesus – you might be a grammar redneck.
  5. If you think sentence structure is what the county court uses to determine prison terms – you might be a grammar redneck.
  6. If you believe plagiarism is what happened in the Dark Ages that caused zombies to be invented – you might be a grammar redneck.
  7. If you think a paragraph is what you get when you skin both your knees real bad in an ATV accident – you might be a grammar redneck.
  8. If you think a colon is those two dots on your phone that you combine with that “arch” thingy to make a smiley face – you might be a grammar redneck.
  9. And finally, if you think a period is what happens after a relatively calm and peaceful part of the month – you are a grammar redneck.

The ability to write coherent sentences and paragraphs helps people fill out job applications and build winning resumes. It inhibits gross stupidity from being posted on Facebook and Twitter. It even helps folks get dates through posting witty profiles on internet dating sites. Please don’t settle for mediocrity as a thinking, communicating human being.

For those who are true grammar rednecks, I have some good news. There is a more accomplished version of you waiting to emerge. Yes, there is some hard work involved, just like there is in any kind of self-improvement project. But you can do this. So whip out those semi-colons and periods and don’t be afraid to use them. And don’t worry, lots of folks will find your conjugations fascinating.

George Reagan

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