Sunday, February 10, 2013

Imagination over experience

A week back, in a conversation with an amazing person I've recently gotten to know, she remarked about why is she seeing so many dead peoples' quotes in poster-images being shared over facebook - she'd rather know about what the living have to say.

While I myself really enjoy seeing some very wise words being shared, I understood her point : What are we, the currently living generation, saying and believing? Why don't we exchange, as often, our ideas and thoughts? Why do we need great (and dead) people -- the elites, to monopolize wisdom? After all, even their famed wisdom has been inherited from the wisdom of the crowds. Every person is capable of displaying exemplary wisdom, foresight, understanding of any situation.

So I've started off with this:

And it's shared in an album in my facebook profile over here.

What led to this quote: Partly my own experiences, partly what I've been seeing happening in the world.
Around this time last year, during a scandal in a particular group I was associated with, in the face of several people's and my own darker experiences, I was able to imagine a better way for things to happen; I went against the best advice of some very experienced hands, and set off a chain of events that led to the injustice getting undone. Never had those persons, as much as I respect them, thought something like this could happen. They were completely taken by surprise. Albeit using lessons learned from past experiences, imagination triumphed over experience.

In the Egyptian revolution in 2011, one remark that really stood out in my eyes was from a young activist that went somewhat like this:
"Our lack of experience in Egyptian politics turned out to be our greatest advantage. Many experienced people said something like this could never happen; but we didn't know so we just went ahead and changed things forever!"

It makes sense, right? Status quo: something that has "always been this way". Experience tells us that. The history may be littered with failed attempts to change it. In Egypt, for instance, people had been trying and failing since over 10 years to change the way their country was run. The Indian independence movement was pretty much failing in its ultimate aim for around 40 years.
But the human mind is capable of creativity, invention, innovation, imagination : all these come in spite of experience. And they change things. They push the human race forward. Naturally at the time of trying, experience will be weighed against hope for change, and as per the facts on the ground, would weigh in more.
Yet, uncannily, we've been seeing things changing all the time. So in some way imagination must be a force more potent than we ordinarily think.

Another wisdom-story that's been shared often goes like this: "Before anything in reality can happen, it first takes form in someone's imagination; someone's dreams. Somebody must have imagined that you could put your dirty clothes into a box and a few hours later they're clean; only after that the washing machine came into existence."

Of course, one really inspiring story of visionaries' imagination predating the actual happening is the space program, illustrated so wonderfully here:
"It is difficult to say what is impossible.
For the dream of yesterday..
..Is the hope of today..
.. And the reality of tomorrow."
- Robert H. Goddard, the rocket man.

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