Quotes about imagination

A collection of quotes on the topic of imagination.

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Nikola Tesla photo

„My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements, and operate the device entirely in my mind.“

—  Nikola Tesla, book My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla

My Inventions (1919)
Source: My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla
Context: The moment one constructs a device to carry into practice a crude idea, he finds himself unavoidably engrossed with the details of the apparatus. As he goes on improving and reconstructing, his force of concentration diminishes and he loses sight of the great underlying principle.… I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements and operate the device in my mind. It is absolutely immaterial to me whether I run my turbine in thought or test it in my shop. I even note if it is out of balance.

Jordan Peterson photo
Quintilian photo

„For it is feeling and force of imagination that makes us eloquent.“

—  Quintilian ancient Roman rhetor 35 - 96

Book X, Chapter VII, 15
De Institutione Oratoria (c. 95 AD)
Original: (la) Pectus est enim quod disertos facit, et vis mentis.

John Cage photo
David Foster Wallace photo

„If, by the virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility like Enfield MA’s state-funded Ennet House, you will acquire many exotic new facts…That certain persons simply will not like you no matter what you do. That sleeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused. That purposeful sleep-deprivation can also be an abusable escape. That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her/it. That loneliness is not a function of solitude. That logical validity is not a guarantee of truth. That it takes effort to pay attention to any one stimulus for more than a few seconds. That boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them. That if enough people in a silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of steam coming off the coffee. That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt. That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack. That concentrating intently on anything is very hard work. That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that if they stop to think about it, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences of are never good. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself. That it is possible to make rather tasty poached eggs in a microwave oven. That some people’s moms never taught them to cover up or turn away when they sneeze. That the people to be the most frightened of are the people who are the most frightened. That it takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak. That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable. That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid. That having a lot of money does not immunize people from suffering or fear. That trying to dance sober is a whole different kettle of fish. That different people have radically different ideas of basic personal hygiene. That, perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it. That if you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know it was you or anybody else know what it was you did or in any way or form trying to get credit for it, it’s almost its own form of intoxicating buzz. That anonymous generosity, too, can be abused. That it is permissible to want. That everybody is identical in their unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else. That this isn’t necessarily perverse. That there might not be angels, but there are people who might as well be angels.“

—  David Foster Wallace, book Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest (1996)

Neville Goddard photo
Albert Einstein photo
Haruki Murakami photo
Axel Munthe photo

„Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.“

—  Axel Munthe Swedish physician 1857 - 1949

Source: supanet.com/find/famous-quotes-by/axel-munthe/a-man-can-stand-a-lot-as-fqb50991/

Ian McEwan photo

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Ursula K. Le Guin photo
Franz Kafka photo

„You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart; imagine my heartbeat when you are in this state.“

—  Franz Kafka, book Letters to Felice

Variant: You are at once both the quiet and the confusion of my heart.
Source: Letters to Felice‎

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe photo

„It is the most foolish of all errors for young people of good intelligence to imagine that they will forfeit their originality if they acknowledge truth already acknowledged by others.“

—  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe German writer, artist, and politician 1749 - 1832

Der thörigste von allen Irrthümern ist, wenn junge gute Köpfe glauben, ihre Originalität zu verlieren, indem sie das Wahre anerkennen, was von andern schon anerkannt worden.
Maxim 254, trans. Stopp
Maxims and Reflections (1833)

Socrates photo

„If, I say now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to fulfill the philosopher's mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods… then I would be fancying that I was wise when I was not wise. For this fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being the appearance of knowing the unknown; since no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. …this is the point in which, as I think, I am superior to men in general, and in which I might perhaps fancy myself wiser than other men — that whereas I know but little of the world below, I do not suppose that I know: but I do know that injustice and disobedience to a better, whether God or man, is evil and dishonorable, and I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.“

—  Socrates classical Greek Athenian philosopher -470 - -399 BC

29a–b
Alternate translation: "To fear death, is nothing else but to believe ourselves to be wise, when we are not; and to fancy that we know what we do not know. In effect, no body knows death; no body can tell, but it may be the greatest benefit of mankind; and yet men are afraid of it, as if they knew certainly that it were the greatest of evils."
Plato, Apology

Carl Sagan photo

„Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.“

—  Carl Sagan, book Pale Blue Dot

Source: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), p. 8, Supplemental image at randi.org http://www.randi.org/images/122801-BlueDot.jpg

Freddie Mercury photo
Martha C. Nussbaum photo
Martha Gellhorn photo

„It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.“

—  Martha Gellhorn journalist from the United States 1908 - 1998

Letter as quoted in "Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life" (2003) written by Caroline Moorehead.
Context: War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say and it seems to me I have been saying it forever. Unless they are immediate victims, the majority of mankind behaves as if war was an act of God which could not be prevented; or they behave as if war elsewhere was none of their business. It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“