Albert Einstein is one of my favorite people in the universe.
No, I didn’t meet him personally; no matter my current age I was way beyond his time. When I first had an awareness of him I was in high school, or maybe junior high, and he was gone. I’d heard about him, studied him and his theories, dreamed of making that next great discovery. And taken in his thoughts about how the universe was ordered.
A long-time friend of mine knew him intimately in Princeton. So one time over dinner, I asked him, “What was Albert Einstein like?” He told me he was just like his pictures. He had long untamed hair, walked around town with shorts and sandals, and was socially aloof. When invited to dinner or social invitations but usually turned them down, preferring the quiet solitude of his own home. Yet he had causes that he cared deeply about and would get out on a limb to support things he felt were justified. My friend felt that if Einstein were more socially engaged it would have helped his causes. My friend told me the story, which I’d read about before, of the time that Einstein was out walking near a soy field. The person he was walking with asked him what the plant was that was growing. Einstein replied, “I can’t know everything.” Einstein wasn’t particularly religious. He had an underlying belief in a creator of the universe but wasn’t too worried about religion as a matter of daily thought or practice. Yet he was so thick in his science that he did things and discovered things that were amazing. He was all about innovation. He was a genius.
Maybe it was lack of social consciousness that gave him the courage to try and make mistakes and try again. He just didn’t care about what others thought of him or what he wore or the looks of his hair. At least towards the end of his life.
Maybe it was his native brilliance.
Maybe it was his ability to look at failure as one piece of the process of discovery.
Some of my favorite Einstein quotes:
- “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Quoted in interview by G.S. Viereck , October 26,1929.
- “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” —Albert Einstein to Carl Seelig – March 11, 1952.
- “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” —Albert Einstein to J. Dispentiere – March 24, 1954.
- “It is not a lack of real affection that scares me away again and again from marriage. Is it a fear of the comfortable life, of nice furniture, of dishonor that I burden myself with, or even the fear of becoming a contented bourgeois.” —Albert Einstein to Elsa Löwenthal, after August 3, 1914.
And one more, though I have no idea where it came from nor where it’s headed:
- “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” -Albert Einstein.
In many ways, Einstein reminds me of my dad.