Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quit making stuff up and get to work! Where would we be without imagination?

I was listening to a Sunday morning worship service talk, and the speaker said something to the effect of:

"What if Beethoven brought his Ode to Joy to be performed, and they said 'We can't use this; you just made all this up in your head!' "

A friend of my husbands ran a very successful international business for decades based on a circuit board he saw in his dreams. He drew it down in detail when he woke up, built it, and started selling it. What if someone else had the same dream but didn't write it down and forgot about it? Or didn't believe that something they "just made up" could be so valuable?

Who needs imagination?

Mark Twain once said, "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Think of how hard politicians try to influence people to believe things that are not quite true. It takes at least a little imagination to not be taken in by someone trying hard to fool you. Or, as Einstein said, "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."

For example, lots of people know the original story the ad below is based on (click to play), but how many thought of this ending:

Of course, one of America's favorite political leaders, John F. Kennedy, said, "The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were." He was echoing William Blake's comment that "What is now proved was once only imagined."

What if the things we "just imagine" are our successful business or hit record, but we just don't know it? The product of intuition and imagination, if ignored, simply disappear. How many solutions to problems or great new directions have been missed because people let them go without trying to understand what their imagination or intuition was telling them?

Don't let anyone discount your dreams (or spiritual experiences) by telling you they are "just imagination," and don't discount them yourself!

People too often forget, or even reject, the importance of imagination in their lives, sometimes thinking that it's only good for "making stuff up." But it's much more than that. An old Latin proverb states: "The imagination exercises a powerful influence over every act of sense, thought, reason; over every idea." Whether you are using your imagination intentionally or not, it is influencing your life.

Famous quotes on imagination

Here are some other quotes about imagination that I like:

Opportunities ... are limited only by [our] imagination. But so few have imagination that there are ten thousand fiddlers to one composer.
- Charles F. Kettering

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
- Thomas Edison

Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions.
- Albert Einstein

Everything you can imagine is real.
- Pablo Picasso

Imagination is the eye of the soul.
-Joseph Joubert

The imagination is never governed, it is always the ruling and divine power.
- John Ruskin

The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.
- Henry Ward Beecher

The soul never thinks without a mental picture.
- Aristotle

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
- Howard Thurman quotes


  1. I have seen this in church a lot. The choirs around here tend to sing mostly songs that they've heard on gospel radio or CDs. If someone brings in a song that they have written themselves, others get a bit of an attitude. Every song that they sing was jotted down on a napkin or notepad by someone before it ended up on the radio!

  2. Great post...I've heard about a couple of people who have built businesses based on a very detailed dream

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks so much for stopping by on my blog and for your lovely comment, that led me to this post. It's true that imagination is way too often underestimated or sniggered at, but where would we be without it? A life without dreams would be so boring...

  4. @Secret Wish Jar Exactly right!