We all know of Albert Einstein as a genius scientist. We have an image in our minds of his unkempt hair and kindly face and his famous theories called the Special and General theories of relativity. However, most of us are not aware of the two main aspects of the fundamental wisdom of Einstein.
Einstein, the Scientist
The first aspect is unfortunately not accessible to most ordinary people. It is the deep thinking and work Einstein did as a physicist. In 1905 he published an astonishing five major scientific papers worthy of the highest praise. Still, his theory of general relativity gave us a radically new insight into gravitation that most consider his most significant work. If Einstein had not lived, it is speculated that other physicists would have discovered most of his findings. But, General relativity was such an amazing theory that if Einstein had not uncovered its mysteries, it might still have remained unknown.
Einstein’s work was not merely theoretical. His Special and General theories of relativity allow us to have accurate GPS signals and use satellites. In addition, his work in quantum mechanics, a topic he debated with most other physicists, has had immense practical benefits.
Einstein the Humanist
The second aspect of Einstein is his contribution to the world as a humanist. An example of this was in November 1922 when Einstein was in Japan giving lectures. While he was there, it was announced that he had won the Nobel Prize in physics. A messenger arrived at the hotel where he was staying with a delivery. The messenger boy refused to accept a tip. Einstein, therefore, wrote two brief notes and gave them to the messenger, saying that it was possible the notes would one day be of great value. In 2017 the notes sold for USD 1.8 million!
On one of the notes, Einstein wrote, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” This is a profound sentence, and we would all do well to heed Einstein’s advice.
Einstein did not seek out fame or fortune; he wrote, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. The struggle for understanding is an ennobling and enriching experience as we try and lift the veil of the mystery of the marvelous structure of reality.” The search for a deeper understanding of the universe was his main objective.
Einstein viewed humans as part of a holistic whole. He explained that “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein died in 1955, but his scientific and humanist contributions will be with us forever.