2016 – National High School 4th Place

Nicholas Timoshenko, New York.

The natural phenomenon that we, as humble human beings, have unfailing sought to understand is the meaning of life. This intangible definition of living is often thought to be grasped by pompous people that believe that they essentially understand what life is. Knowledge is frequently regarded as empowering, yet the actual definition of knowledge has numerous limitations. Knowledge is ever-fleeting, as trusted facts that we once knew are torn from their roots, and our understanding of difficult matters changes. As our mortal lives progress, we gain more knowledge through learning and lose some through forgetfulness. Yet the one concept that always manages to maintain itself is imagination; it knows no restrictions and allows for knowledge to expand exponentially.

In today’s complex world, it is arguable that sheer imagination has a greater impact on our society than knowledge. Not even knowledge can explain how our universe was formed; there are theories, but nothing has been proven to be factual. Yet imagination has many different propositions and speculations regarding the universe’s origins. Imagination triumphs where knowledge disappoints. An important aspect to remember in the debate between knowledge and imagination is that, if knowledge was permanently erased from society, imagination would still manifest itself through creativity and innovation. If the ability to imagine was removed, however, then there would be no basis for knowledge. Therefore, knowledge may be considered as a branch of imagination. During the Paleolithic Era, without developing yet creative minds of the early humans, hunting methods involving wooded tools such as spears would not have been able to develop; there was no prior knowledge that they possessed. The Neolithic Revolution, which was entirely based off the Paleolithic achievements, would not have been able to occur without the imagination of the early humans; society as we know it would not have been able to progress.

Many dreams have been rejected by society and deemed impossible, such as the ability to build machines of flight. Yet imagination supported the Wright Brothers, who were able to build and successfully fly an aircraft against all odds. Knowledge deemed this feat impossible, but their imagination propelled them to success. The word “impossible” is a product of society’s limited knowledge; impossibility is only something deemed unable to be completed or unable to occur. There is no leeway for imagination and certainly no chance of success. One anonymous individual wisely stated, “Impossible only means that you have not found the solution yet.” The imagination of flight produced the knowledge of flight. Today, airplanes are a primary source of transportation.

Both knowledge and imagination are important aspects of the human experience that creates our society. We strive for more understanding and knowledge, ultimately seeking what we cannot achieve without imagination. Our imagination links our ideas to our knowledge, which enables us to successfully accomplish what we would not be able to do on knowledge alone. As Carl Sagan once said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”



Kids Philosophy Slam Home Page