Origami Exhibition 30 May - 6 June 20001, 
 at BMW in München 
Talk by Thoki Yenn.  
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to be here and  getting the 
opportunity to talk about a subjects that I am very much interested in: 
Please excuse my disorderly way of talking about the subject, I will do 
my best to stay within the borders of sanity. 
It is always a good idea to know what we are talking about, 
when we are talking, and talking is the most common way in 
which we exchange thoughts with each other. 
But it is not the only one.  
So, I made a google search: www. google.com and asked 
IMAGINATION, hoping that I would get a good and precis 
definition of Imagination, and what did I get?  I got one million 
seven hundred and seventy thousand answers, and that did not 
teach me anything useful, but I learned something. 
Please note the distinction between Teaching and Learning. 
I shall return to that later.  
I learned that too much data on a communication line will 
block it, so let us not slip into the solution of using the method 
which the famous inventor Thomas Edison used.  His method is 
described by another perhaps less famous inventor who for a 
short time worked with Edison, namely Nicola Tesla.  I quote 
from an article in  New York Times, October 19, 1931:   
``If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once 
with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found 
the object of his search.''  
Even I would have thought that using a magnet would have been better. 
So instead of asking an unthinking machine, and sift through a million 
answers, why not ask a human being sitting next to you, whether you 
are working on an idea for an Origami model or trying to think of 
finding a surface with less air resistance. It is not an overwhelming 
amount of data you need, but flexible human insight. And that brings 
me onto  a very old and interesting method of education, you might even 
say enlightenment. You don’t give data to be remembered by pupils, you 
ask questions. It is the method described by Plato in his dialogues, about 
how Socrates was practicing maiyutic,  in his wandering about in the 
Lyceum in Athens asking questions of his followers in his so called 
peripatetic, walking about, school  
 It is about time I stop for a few moments to be sure I do not lose the 
twisted thread I am trying to follow, let me give you the definitions of 
the words I am using, you might of course already know these words, 
but for my own sake and because I  just love words..... 
when I understand them. 
 I have spent and still do spend a lot of time finding out what words 
really mean.  
The etymology of the words are important to me, not just the definition 
of the word, note the difference.  Words, even with the same 
etymological derivation can have different definitions according to the 
subjects matter you are dealing with, I know that I have had quite a lot 
of trouble understanding computer language,  because there, the use of 
the words are not obvious from their meaning given in an ordinary 
I love the use of the exact words, especially when I understand them, 
and I know that if I can speak with the full understanding of the 
meaning of the words I am using, then there is less chance of being 
misunderstood by those I am talking to. 
Please excuse my jumping about here in my attempt to find a workable 
way through the confusion in my mind.  
Bear with me. 

So, I have looked up the words in the dictionaries in the house. 
IMAGINATION - Traditionally, the mental capacity for experiencing, 
constructing, or manipulating 'mental imagery'. Imagination is also 
regarded as responsible for fantasy, inventiveness, idiosyncrasy, and 
creative, original, and insightful thought in general, and, sometimes, for 
a much wider range of mental activities dealing with the non-actual, 
such as supposing, pretending, 'seeing as', thinking of possibilities, and 
even being mistaken. 
According to Aristotle "The soul never thinks without a mental image, 
phantasma, he called it. 
As for “ma·ieu·tic”, it is an adjective relating to the aspect of 
the Socratic method that induces a respondent to formulate latent 
concepts through a dialectic or logical sequence of questions.  
ETYMOLOGY:	Greek maieutikos, from maieuesthai, to act as 
midwife, from maia, midwife, nurse. m- 
So, it is the midwife method, helping a new understanding to be born. 
Latent concepts, it is this latent concepts that it is important to bring to 
life and that is best done by asking questions. It is important that you 
use dialectic in the nice meaning of the word. Do not discus what the 
other says by bringing in your opinion of what is being said, listen and 
nod as acknowledgement, that you have heard what is being said, do not 
interrupt. Let the person finish, and if you did not understand, you 
might say: “Tell me more about that!”. 
Do not contradict, even if you have another opinion ! 
 A wise Indian Guru once said: “First word, Yes.” 
So, if you listen to them they will listen to you, —- later. 
A good deep conversation about a common subject will take you out of 
your ordinary world so that when you return, you will see it in a slightly 
different way. And if you can't see your world in a slightly different 
way then you will not be able to add to the knowledge of that subject. 
I think at this point it is a good time for me to admit to a method 
                          that I use when I want to write something about a specific subject.                              
I keep concentrating my thought around  the main subject, in this case 
Then when I read whatever I am reading, newspaper, crime stories, or 
listen to the dialogue in TV programs, I listen and read it as if like 
through an imagination-formed opening, a changing filter of some kind, 
every sentence read or heard is then having to do with imagination. Can 
you imagine that? Every little meaning changes into a statement about 
The imagination content is pulled out, as a magnet is picking up littles 
bits of iron dust, and by only changing a few words in the sentence I can 
make it express something about imagination. By the way, this is how I 
have written this talk. 
Using material at hand I shall give you an example: 
I found this sentence in an interview with Mrs. J.K. Rowling, the author 
of the now famous Harry Potter books. She certainly uses imagination. 
Beliefs and religion were touched on in the interview, I quote: 
“If we cannot visualize what is invisible to our eyes, then we will have a 
harder time sustaining our belief, especially in these bleak times” 
I can, for instance, use it in this way: 
If you cannot verbalize what is invisible to your eyes, then you will have 
a hard time explaining the flashes of insight that happens at times when 
you are listening to a friend, who talks about her ideas about how to 
shape  ideas into hard physical material.  
another example from the same article about faith:  
I quote: “take you out of your ordinary world so that when you return, 
you will see it in a slightly different way. And if they can't see their 
world in a slightly different way than the secularists see it, Christians 
will lose their faith. 
 From that I can use:  
Conversation with a good friend will often make you see the subject at 
hand in a very different way, that might take you out of your ordinary 
world so that when you return, you will see solutions instead of 
Is that Plagiarising ?   It that stealing Ideas? 
When I ask you this question am I then plagiarising Plato by using  
ma·ieu·tic ? -  
O.K. I am sorry I should stay on the sober line. 
 If I ask on the internet to try to get an exact definition of Plagiarising, it 
gives me 269.000 answers. Again, too much data!! 
It is more productive to ask a knowledgeable person, so that you 
observe what is happening when you hear another viewpoint, which can 
make you take another viewpoint. 
When I say taking another viewpoint, I mean that literally, Pretend in 
your mind to look at something from above or below or from the side, 
for instance a drop of water in a  side-view,  a drop sliding down a 
window pane sliding along with it at the level of the surface of the 
window pane. 
If you  take my viewpoint, then you might see something I do not see, 
because along with the viewpoint, you can bring a special interest 
created in the problems that you have in your every day life or work. 
I can for instance be more interested in the shape the drop takes, while 
you are interested in the speed of the drop, or the drag of the surface, or 
how the drop is picking up other drops on its way. 
Photography is ideal for that kind of view points, but first this idea must 
be made by the Imagination in the mind of the photographer. 
The ability to create a picture in your mind of something not yet 
existing in the physical Universe, is a gift that most children have, and I 
do not know why so many of them loose that ability. It might be the 
education system in our schools, or their parents schooling. 
When some children talk as if to an imaginary person, and listen to the 
answers, they don’t like it, and they excuse them and say: “Oh, he is 
just imagining things”, and discourage them and tell them to stop 
imagining things that are not there. But they are there in the 
imagination, and they are there for a reason, imagination is a way to 
handle the problems that we have, both as children and as grown ups.  
 I think it is rather surprising, when we look at the technological 
development, how many imagined things have turned into factual 
things, that are here around us now. 
By the way in my search for the meaning of plagiarism I came across a 
mineral called Plagionite, I got a lot of answers there too from my 
search, but none of the answers, that I looked at, told me what it was 
used for, so I sent an e mail asking an old schoolmate, a former chemical 
engineer: “What is Plagionite used for? And because he is a 
knowledgeable and intelligent person he answers my exact question, 
“Plagionite can be changed into a lead-antimony alloy, f.inst. 80 % lead, 
20 % antimony, which together with pure lead are used for the 3-8 
percentage antimony-lead used for making accumulators, storage 
One exact answer from a knowledgeable person, is much to be 
preferred, instead of 96000 that has to be searched  straw by straw to 
find the needle in the haystack. 
But you are working with cars perhaps you already knew that, but I 
have no way of knowing about your specific knowledge, I did not know 
on beforehand whether my listeners here would be engineers or 
technicians or designers and artists. 
Even if I might suffer from delusions, I don’t think that I can tell you 
very much about how to build cars, but I might ask a question or two,  
that might  stir up a new slant in looking at a specific problem that you 
are having. I don’t even have to know about the problem you are 
thinking about. But If I ask you what would happen if you turned your 
problem upside down, or folded it in two along a slanted line of your 
choice? Because folding is something I know something about through 
my many years playing with Paper and Origami and Kirigami. 
Folding exist in nature in all growing things, so it can surely be used in a 
growing Imagination. How does that sound to a sane person ? 
Now trying to search my own memory to find something that combines 
cars and folding. A-ha, up jumps a picture in the programs for the 3rd 
international conference of Origami Science, Mathematics and 
Education, held at ASILOMAR in Monteray in California, earlier this 
It was a lecture where air bag engineers had sought advice from a very 
competent American Origami Expert Robert Lang. I was not present at 
that talk, I was at another one dealing with education, so I will take the 
opportunity to brag a little, just a little. 
At that Conference I made a talk about Education, and because 
Education as a means of developing imagination is important I will 
cannibalize the talk I made at that conference, in the same way as I 
exploit any other text I come across. The provocative title was 
“Teaching is impossible”.  
This might sound as if I was just trying to be funny - which I was, but I 
hope you will agree that teaching to take place is totally dependent on 
the willingness and the ability to learn in the person, 
that the teaching is aimed at. 
O.K. Before I go deeper into that, I want to say a few words about 
words. Words, when we use them correctly are supposed to create 
pictures. So, why don’t we use pictures instead of words,  
O.K. In diagrams and blue prints we do.   
	In Danish we use a Greek Word: onomatopoetikon. 
	Literally translated, by me, word make - make picture. 
       Make words which make pictures.  
	What I am aiming at is this: Be sure that your pupil, victim, friend, 
audience, work mate, whatever, gets the idea, that is. understands what 
you want her to do. I am aiming at that the words I use should ideally 
create a picture in the mind of the person, which shows her the action 
which has to take place. 
	This of course is dependent on the persons ability to understand the 
words you are using. Very few Eskimoes understand the language 
spoken in Mesopotamia, which by the way means: the middle of rivers. 
So why don’t I just speak in pictures? How do I speak in pictures? 
By using metaphors or parables, but remember 
similarity is not identity. 
or by miming, acting, showing the action and using very few, 
but descriptive words, that make pictures in the minds of your audience 
whether they be one or two or 35 persons. Your body language is also 
important.  When I was in the middle of a group of people in Tunesia 
and I did not speak Arabian, I showed them how to fold an Origami 
flapping bird by my sign language. Using my hands, like this :  
Square, middle - fold edge to edge - rectangle - long short. 
Diagonal . corners - line from corner to corner . triangle. 
Silent Chinese sign language. You can make a drawing in the air with 
your hands that will explain more than the most explicit verbal 
description or definition.  
This goes along with what I have always believed. Every thing alive has 
the ability to learn.  Even I have it.  It is part of the ability to survive. 
From my TV I have learnt that an octopus has the ability to learn, It has 
very good eyesight, and I have seen it, on my TV, open a bottle with 
screw top to get at the thing that was clearly visible inside the bottle. 
We learn by seeing , experiencing, seeing feeling hearing, even blind 
people learn by making mental pictures of what they touch and hear. 
But we learn the most by doing! 
From Shakespeare’s Imagination I learned how to entertain and hold 
the interest of an audience. An example is his presentation of the ghost 
of Hamlet’s Father.  
         There is talk about it, then it is shown, and then there is talking 
about what they saw.     
       Tell them what is going to happen, show what is happening, then 
talk about what has happened.   
       If you want to educate , not just getting across how to do a specific 
job, meaning you want the person to learn to think on her own, then 
you do not tell them what to do, you ask them in stead of telling them. 
       	Give them something they know, along with something to do that 
they CAN do, something that will make them find out something they 
did not know, that is learning, finding out something they did not know 
that they knew.  
The ability to make a mental image a mock up of a machine in the mind 
and make it work is a very high ability, it is said that the famous Serbo-
American inventor Nicola Tesla had that ability, he could think up a 
machine and then make a drawing and have the machine made 
according to his drawings and it would work,  it would work, it would 
actually do what it was meant to do.  
I quote:“It was a truly successful AC motor that Tesla had invented, an 
induction motor that was the heart of a new system and a quantum 
jump ahead of the times” This was a quote from the book by Margaret 
Cheney: “TESLA: Man out of time”, ISBN 0-440-39077-X. Published 
by Dell publishing in 1981. I bought it in the TESLA Museum in 
Colorado Springs  in 1992. 
Please remember: 
We are the music makers,  
we are the dreamers of dreams,  
yet we are the movers and shakers  
of the world forever it seems. 
If anything I have said has given you ideas that turns out to be useful in 
your work I would appreciate to told me about it.  
  Thank You. 
     We are the music-makers, 
     And we are the dreamers of dreams, 
     Wandering by lone sea-breakers, 
     And sitting by desolate streams; 
     World-losers and world-forsakers, 
     On whom the pale moon gleams: 
     Yet we are the movers and shakers 
     Of the world for ever, it seems. 
     With wonderful deathless ditties 
     We build up the world's great cities, 
     And out of a fabulous story 
     We fashion an empire's glory: 
     One man with a dream, at pleasure, 
     Shall go forth and conquer a crown; 
     And three with a new song's measure 
     Can trample an empire down. 
     We, in the ages lying 
     In the buried past of the earth, 
     Built Nineveh with our sighing, 
     And Babel itself with our mirth; 
     And o'erthrew them with prophesying 
     To the old of the new world's worth; 
     For each age is a dream that is dying, 
     Or one that is coming to birth. 
 Arthur O'Shaughnessy 
Irish Poet (1849-81)  
Updated 28. May 2001

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