Our imagination

Human beings have an ability which is quite amazing: imagination. We can imagine and see things which can, at some future point, lead to the creation of amazing and beautiful things. Of course, imagination has and can continue to lead to sad and destructive things too.

John Lennon sang:

No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

Such a vision can be imagined to be an ideal one for mankind. But one also needs to keep in mind some of the intrinsic tendencies in mankind to abuse liberties and bring about self-destructive tyrannies. Jefferson said:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” – Thomas Jefferson

One of the several other ways imagination is put to use is in things like writing, drama and poetry. Five hundred years ago, Shakespeare asked his audience in the prologue of Henry V to put their imagination to use to visualize the Battle of Agincourt in all it’s might as if it were occurring on the stage itself.

And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder

When one thinks about all the amazing technology one sees in today’s world, it must be kept in mind that all these are the result of the imagination of someone or the other. It is quite staggering to think of how the millions of people over several millenia putting their imaginations to use to create the world as it exists today. Things like smartphones, electric self-driving cars, bullet trains, the internet have only been possible because of the lively imagination of several creative and savvy entrepreneurs and creators.

Classics and evolution of language

Shakespeare is said to be the greatest poet-dramatist of all time. His plays have a range and quality to them which have been unmatched since his time.

One reason I find his work fascinating is seeing how the English language has evolved since his time. Apart from the changes in spellings (which were not standardized back then), some of the words and phrases also have retained the same spelling, but changed in meaning. For example, “silly” originally meant happy and blessed.

The other interesting reason is how he masterfully weaves his sentences and words together to produce a rich depth of meaning.

For example, in All’s Well That Ends Well, the Countess of Rosillion describes Helen, who she has been taking care of after the passing of the latter’s father, below. She proclaims that Helen has every right to love who she desires :

Faith, I do: her father bequeathed her to me; and
she herself, without other advantage, may lawfully
make title to as much love as she finds: there is
more owing her than is paid; and more shall be paid
her than she’ll demand.

In the above, Shakespeare gracefully interleaves the meanings of economics and love.

On the subject of classical works as a whole, I think there is a treasure trove of literature in some of the classic Kannada and Sanskrit works. It is interesting to read such texts from the source and discover their nuanced meanings.