Issue 101 / September - October 2014
Power of Imagination and Science
Love for knowledge and perseverance are necessary for scientific success, but not always enough. A scientist should also be full of imagination, excitement, and patience. A rich imagination is like the trunk of the tree of life, its roots allowing it to grow towards the infinite ocean of wisdom. It is the invisible capital of a scholar when applied at the right time and place.
For this tree, the seed is intelligence, water is determination, air is patience, and effort is excitement. One thing to consider is that imagination and fantasy are not the same concept. Whereas imagination is the seed of realistic, logical plans and projects designed in accordance with long term goals regarding life and the future, fantasy involves short term projections out of proportion with reality, emotion, and rational thought. In this sense, there is no imagination that does not sprout its roots towards the goal and does not disperse the seeds of excitement to the human soul. This is because imagination is like a pile of emotions that sustain us in the years ahead. It is the energy that powers the heart, the mystery juice which injects excitement into our minds, a framework of desires that bind us to life. It helps us to believe that one man's expectations for life are as good as his dreams; his earnings will match his excitement. Imagination and the resulting "excitement" is a great blessing that brings out treasures, love, and skills hidden inside us. Above all, imagination can help us to achieve success in all of our endeavors. This is true of science, too.
Defining scientific success can be tricky. It requires effort, hard work, and observation to achieve scientific success. But most importantly, it requires intelligence which is a blessing. Just like a licensed driver controlling a car, the brain's performance improves with the skill of its driver. To maximize the brain's potential, it is very important to integrate the heart and conscience with the use of intelligence.
Can we explain the reality that there is only a limited number of scientists because they were born as such or inherited this quality genetically? The reality is thousands of babies are born with brain capacities similar to that of scientists' in terms of anatomy, histology, physiology, and biochemistry. Even though human intelligence is partly determined by inheritance, there are other factors. If the case was as simple as inheritance, would Einstein say, "I do not have any special skill, but I am passionately curious"? When Thomas Edison said, "1% of genius is inspiration and 99% is sweat," he captured perfectly that one needs more than just intelligence to achieve success - one also needs to maximize that intelligence through hard work.
Scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi summarized the stages of knowledge development of the human mind in seven steps. "One first imagines something (tahayyul), then conceives of it, and clothes it in a form (tasawwur). Afterwards, one reasons and reflects on this thing (taaqqul), then confirms it (tasdiq), and then has full conviction of it (iz'an). Then they fully support it (iltizam); then they become committed or devoted to it (itiqad)" (The Words, Gleams of Truth).
Each of these stages is subject to different rulings. They form the ladder to higher meanings. Thus, if a person is unaware of the step occupied, he/she ends up remaining in the lower stages and acts according to the necessities of that particular level.
Therefore if we do not want to leave our scientific approach at the dimension of "sophistry," which starts with imagination (tahayyul), we have to continue our intellectual and ideological journey all the way to the end. Imagination, which is often overlooked, bears the seed of intelligence, which is a blessing offered from the infinite ocean of God's wisdom. Imagination is the unprinted photo of our intellectual aptitudes. How do you like to print and uncover your dreams?