The state of Penang on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia is a favourite destination among tourists. There is access by land, sea and air. Driving to Penang will get one to the mainland side of the island. One can continue driving across the Penang Bridge (there are two bridges) or go on the Penang Ferry.

Whether one drives on the Penang Bridge and marvels at the engineering feat, or goes on the ferry to experience a more relaxed, breeze-filled journey, either trip would surely be awe-inspiring, especially to those going to the island for the first time. The different views have been said to provide inspirations to many.

Coming back to the real world, as we go about our daily lives, we are experiencing more interruptions due to unforeseen changes and disruptions as they occur with greater frequency, within different contexts of our lives.

Traffic jams will be one example of something that is unplanned and yet for some it is unavoidable. Such instances demand us to always be on the lookout and to seek inspiration as we readjust ourselves to deal with such changes.

The changes are evident within the contexts of governments and politics, socio-economics, education, businesses, finances, science and technology, arts and culture, spirituality and even nature itself. By always being inspired, it may just help you to avoid from becoming ‘expired’.

Expired here would be in the context of your existence within your professional circle, and sometimes your social circle as well. When you are considered as ‘expired’, you may no longer be needed or wanted as you are regarded as being insignificant or non-contributing to the group.

Albert Einstein, a man who is known to excel in being inspired, once said, “Imagination is the highest form of research”. Any research effort, be it within the academic or casual context, relates to the idea of making meaningful discoveries, which would require the spark of imagination to be lit. Ensuring its success would fall on inspiration, which would provide the determination and perseverance in achieving the best outcome towards the end.

Another renowned figure, Leonardo da Vinci, is well-known as being a polymath, alongside others such as Al-Biruni and Galileo. A polymath is someone whose expertise spans a number of different subject areas, and utilising an extensive body of knowledge in dealing with specific problems.

Leonardo da Vinci has drawn inspiration for his ideas and innovations from his surrounding environment. He studied arts as an apprentice, but was later involved in military and naval engineering. An article in the American Scientist magazine explained that he studied various natural phenomena through diagrams, sketches, doodles and objective drawings throughout a span of 50 years, and the understanding gained from such observations have led him to try harnessing the energy from nature, as well as in trying to imitate certain functions derived from elements in nature and other living organisms. He has been inspired from sources that include:

  1. Nature
  2. Close interaction with his family members
  3. Spiritual elements
  4. His own existence

He once said that, “Nature is replete with infinite items, many of which never set forth in experience”. As highlighted by the British Library, all the above had inspired him to study painting, architecture, hydraulics, engineering, physics, mechanics, astronomy optics and human anatomy, from which he later earned the title ‘Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect to the King’ given by the King Francis 1 of France. He then devoted his life to understanding nature via experimentations and careful observations, painting and drawing them with precision and creativity and recording them as scientific observations.

Inspiration can also be drawn from the web and occurrences or events, in addition to nature, interactions in society and the personal self, as stated by Lori Deschene, an online columnist and trainer.

In the local context, at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), conveniently located on Penang island which is a UNESCO Heritage site, inspiration may also come from festivities and other social interactions, arts and culture (tangible and intangible), heritage and architecture, as well as from nature, all of which are available in abundance.

All these can serve well towards creating a society with shared values and understanding that could assist in the process of nation-building. USM aspires to continue leading in such areas of achievement and excellence, and to continue being inspired by man’s achievements in developing all facets of life and in sustaining the balance of nature.

A society that is constantly inspired could give rise to a nation of creators and innovators, and who will not just be end-users and consumers. It’s a future that can be determined by design, and not merely by chance. As Alfred Hitchcock would say, “Ideas come from everything.”

Text: Mazlan Hanafi Basharudin

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