Albert Einstein on the fly cover attracted my attention because in 1946 I was on the Villanova University baseball team. We had traveled to Princeton University to play. After the game while waiting in a taxi to take us to the train station I noticed a shock of white hair rhythmically moving along the sidewalk across the street. I followed the shock of hair a little way when I realized that it was Albert Einstein walking underneath the hair. My eyes followed him about four minutes until he disappeared from view. For a young lad from the west side of Chicago, seeing Albert Einstein was a particular treat. That was 58 years ago and I still remember that event.
Almost everyone in the world knows Albert Einstein by the formula E=mc². I knew he was a great scientist in theoretical physics. What I didn’t know was that he was a great theorist in the field of human affairs. The first 211 pages of the book are things he wrote and speeches he gave from 1919 until he died. The second half of the book is Contributions to Science, a little over my head.
Most of the essays are short and I will write the quotes for your enjoyment. He was light years (if I may make a pun) ahead of his time.
“Aphorisms For Leo Baeck” in honor of Leo’s 80th birthday on May 23, 1953
“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge in the field of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
Rabbi Leo Baeck was a leader of the German Jews in the worst hours of their existence in Hitler’s Germany. He had many chances to escape but said he would stay in Germany as long as there were 10 male Jews in the country. He was a believer in the morality of man through association with divinity. He was in a concentration camp during the Holocaust and worked tirelessly to help his fellow human beings.
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The quotes are from a two volume publication in honor of his 80th birthday.
Read the first quote slowly. Let it sink in. Then blend in the plot of the personal prejudices we all have. Reach back in the deep recesses of your magnificent brain and extract an idea that was molded by those prejudices; re-examine it. Maybe the examination will rise to the surface opinions you had not been capable of forming under the mantle of your prejudices.
Your mind is a great thing. You are in total control. Within your cranial capacity you are capable of escaping into a world that no one else can enter without your permission. You can create any idea, any thought that you desire and there is no reward or punishment until you expose the idea or thought to another mind. You can also take ideas and thoughts expressed by others and run them through your wringer of rationalization and accept or discard them at your will.
Read the first quote again. You should understand how our intellectual processes are trapped within the prejudices of our social mores. I believe it is a truism that the vast majority of humans are not capable of forming such opinions. Think of the ability of the human brain to explore in theory possibilities that may exist in the far reaches of the cosmos. There may be some that do explore in theory but never express their opinions. Most of us never explore to the point of reaching an opinion.
The second quote is more playable. We all know other people who are absolute in their belief of Truth and Knowledge. Truth and Knowledge are transitory. What appears as a truth today may be a falsity tomorrow. Today’s knowledge may not even be a building block for the erection of tomorrows understanding. It is the striving for Truth that is constant. It is the extending of theories beyond the boundaries of our present knowledge that allow us to add to our understanding of the unknown. Our failure to strive for greater light and understanding… exercising the unlimited power within our brains… are the posts on which the wire of the pen that encloses us in our present ignorance rest. The gods are laughing at us.