Their fleece was curly. They stood in normal sheep poses. Some grazed, some stared off into space, some lay down. One ram sniffed the back end of a ewe, testing the possibilities for starting the next generation.
The field on which the sheep grazed was the floor of Frankfurt’s Museum of Communications. Their faces and hooves were old telephones. Their fleece was the curly phone cords that were ubiquitous before the era of hands-free sets and mobile phones.
Anyone who wandered among the telephone sheep or saw the photos got a lesson in the power of the imagination.
I hadn’t seen them until Susan, a regular Catching Courage reader, sent some to me. She also sent one of her favorite quotes, from Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.
I admit I’ve never seen old phones and their spiral cords as art supplies. But looking at the photos made me think of some other creative products of active imaginations.
Take velcro, for instance. I’ve lived in the country and picked hundreds of burrs out of my dogs’ fur. I never once saw anything useful in those pesky hangers-on. George de Mestral did. He took a close look at the burdock seeds clinging to his clothes and his dog’s fur. Under the microscope, he saw how cleverly designed those burrs were. They were covered with hundreds of tiny hooks that could snag any hair or thread. Convinced he could create a fastener that mimicked nature, he quit his job, borrowed money, and invented a fastening system that made him a multi-millionaire.
For Ruth Wakefield, necessity was, indeed, the mother of invention. Ruth had a reputation for scrumptious desserts. People came from all over New England to dine at the Toll House Inn she ran with her husband. One day she ran out of baker’s chocolate for her Butter Drop Do cookies. All she could find was a bar of semi-sweet chocolate Andrew Nestle had given her. She cut it into tiny pieces and added it to the dough, expecting the bits to melt during baking. They didn’t, and the Toll House (aka chocolate chip) cookie was born.
Imagination is a gift we’re all born with. Watch a small child pick up an unfamiliar object. She’ll taste it, toss it, turn it over, bang with it, tear it apart, and push it across the floor.
We all have that innate capacity, to see possibility everywhere. Maybe we just need to remember Barbara Ueland’s advice in her 1938 book, If You Want to Write:
Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express. Try not expressing anything for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You will nearly burst. You will want to write a long letter or draw a picture or sing, or make a dress or a garden.
The photo of the telephone sheep is from potatoknish’s Photostream on Flickr (link below).