Albert Einstein and wonderment

moon There was a time, not too long ago, when there existed ‘wonderment’. It occurred in an ordinary day, during an ordinary hour, doing perhaps something considered ordinary. Hanging out the laundry on a clothes line, and suddenly a rainbow would appear. Watching a magic trick where a man in a black cape would retrieve a rabbit out of his top hat, or a telephone call from America to Europe; all these things created a smile, a moment of awe, an appreciation for what appears and feels like magic…

The age of wonderment was an era when extraordinary things were not taken for granted; all eyes were glued on the television when we landed a man on the moon, and all were amazed at the first heart transplant. To think our ability to become mystified has all but disappeared is a great loss indeed.

Wonderment to the 21st century person may be a feeling that has essentially become numb. So much goes by unnoticed, ignored, and not even a footnote in the news. And so, lament we should for those who may have lost a uniquely human quality, the ability to be wowed.

Einstein Today’s post brings you the namesake of this blog, the esteemed thinker: Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Little introduction needs to be made for he is clearly a wonderment. Born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany, Einstein is one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century. Acknowledged for having developed the special and general theories of relativity, in 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

From his book titled The world as I see it (1949), I have prepared a small parcel for you to read. For within this small passage one will see that even a pragmatic mind like Einstein had time to appreciate the wonderment and mysteries of life.

“…The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle…”

Esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla

futureIt is astounding to think that only a hundred and fifteen years ago, which is not a very long ago in the realm of time, the world was in the throes of a new millennium. This was the Edwardian era, the very beginning of the 20th century, and the future seemed as unrealistic as one could imagine. Airplanes, radios, and wireless transmission were at its infancy. And if only the predictions had come true, what a different world it would be. Andrew Carnegie hoped warfare would “become the most dishonorable” profession and Secretary of the Navy John D. Long held the common belief that war would be abolished.”

Forward to the 21st century, where we began with such inventions as segways, ipods, braile gloves and hybrid cars. Sadly we cannot celebrate the predictions of Carnegie and Long for they did not hold up to the test of time. Which leads us to today’s esteemed thinker: Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) a world renowned scientist who made some of his own predictions seventy or so years before the millennium.

nikola tesla Nikola Tesla, born in Smiljan, Lika, which was then part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, the region of modern day Croatia. In 1873 he began his studies in mathematics and physics at the University in Prague, however became fascinated with electricity. In 1881 he started his career in electrical engineering in Budapst and privately built a reduction motor, a radical idea that was not received well in Europe. As a result he moved to the United States and worked with Thomas Edison. For the next 59 years he established himself as a great inventor, which included constructing his theory of alternating current, in direct conflict with Edison’s theory of direct current. In 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current. Alternating current became standard power in the 20th Century, an accomplishment that ultimately changed the world.

I now bring to you a snippet from an article in the 1935 issue of Liberty magazine. Here is one of many predictions made by the inventor, Nikola Tesla, a man who probably did not predict his own beneficial contribution to everyday life.

“… At present we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age. The solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine. Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a ” thinking machine.” I anticipated this development. I actually constructed “robots.”

Today the robot is an accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushed far enough. In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all why most of this should not come to pass in less than a century, freeing mankind to pursue its higher aspirations…”

Vincent van Gogh and patience

Van Gogh-church-at-auvers-1890.jpg!Large Is it possible that in the 21st century men and women are in a hurried state, both in mind and movement, more than those who lived in previous centuries? For without much effort it is easy to observe that in all walks of life, regardless of one’s location, there is a sense of urgency smothering the landscape and exuding an assumption that we are never caught up, that the more we do the more we feel we need to do. And as we rush about there too is a chronic din, a background noise of dissatisfaction. Accompanied with the belief that men and women today have a monopoly on being too busy is the conclusion that those who came before could not possibly understand that we today have so much more to accomplish.

But let us stand back and treat the problem by viewing it with a pragmatic approach; this problem that maligns our thoughts, this problem that haunts us and keeps us awake at night…this problem of too much to do and not enough time. If we were to inspect any device that tells time, from your antique Grandfather Clock that survived so many house moves, the one with the pendulum that still swings and dings at each hour, to the most efficient app on your phone that awards you with accurate time anywhere in the universe at any given moment; if you count the minutes from the first light of day to the blackest part of night, the total will still be only twenty-four hours. It is the same amount of time that humans have always been allotted to accomplish what they set out to do in any given day.

Then just perhaps what has diminished is actually not “time”, since mathematically that notion is completely erroneous… Perhaps we have whittled away a part of what was a human attribute and supplanted in its place another human attribute, frustration. Just perhaps it is our patience that has worn away like treads on tires that speed round and around on a race track. For although humans have always been in the market to improve time in order to more quickly accomplish our tasks, our chores, our day-to-day means of transportation, our ability to receive and send communication, although we have successfully sped up the inner workings within our world, we still must be patient… for within the space allocated in a single day it forever remains finite… no more no less, twenty-four hours. Like expanding a balloon, we are able to fill it with just so much air, and although by using a pump we can increase the speed at which the air enters such a playful object … it can only consume and occupy a fixed amount of space before…(well you know what happens)…… it pops!

van gogh 2 Today’s blog brings back a most original person, the esteemed thinker: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Dutch post- impressionist. Although he is recognized as one of our most gifted artists, this blogger finds that his writing is as expressive as many of his paintings. So, I have taken the liberty of extracting from his autobiography, Dear Theo, a most thoughtful observation.

Without further delay, enjoy a few moments out from you hectic day to enjoy his words. I now present Vincent van Gogh ….

“…There is a saying by *Gustave Dore which I have always admired: ‘J’ai la patience d’un boeuf’. I find in it a certain virtue, a certain resolute honesty. It is the word of a real artist. Ought one not to learn patience from nature, learn patience from seeing the corn slowly ripen, seeing things grow? …

Hardly a day passes now that I do not produce one thing or another. I cannot but make progress; each drawing one completes, each study one paints is a step forward. It is the same as on a road: one sees the church spire at the end, but there is another bit of road one did not see at first, and which must be covered. But one comes nearer and nearer. Sooner or later, I shall arrive at the point of beginning to sell….”

*Gustave Doré : French artist, engraver and illustrator (1832-1888). Translation: “I have the patience of an ox”
First Image: The Church at Auvers by Vincent van Gogh (1890)
Second image: Self-Portrait of Van Gogh (1889)

Esteemed thinker: Mark Twain and memory

Mark Twainjpg 21st century… narcissism… the era of immediacy…the fret of being left out of the social media…the age of sound bites…it is a time when we find ourselves archiving our every move. Moments will no longer have to be left to memory, but are chronically digitalized in such a way that even those things and events we wish to leave in the past, forgotten, swept under the rug, will eventually… sometime in the future … rear its ugly head (or not so ugly head) and become resurrected into the present.

Good or bad, whatever you may think, these are our times.

Today’s blog takes us on a pondering of Memory. To bring the point home I present the esteemed thinker, Mark Twain (1835-1910) (Samuel Langhorne Clemens was his given name being the former was his pen name). The great American author and humorists is often credited as being the father of American literature. Best known to contemporaries for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, he was a prolific writer beyond the novel.

So from his work, Mark Twain’s Speeches by the title’s author; I give you a bit of his witticism to contemplate and react to. Take heed to his remarks for we have or soon may be in the same boat!

“January 11, 1906.
Answer to a letter received this morning:
DEAR MRS. H.,
-I am forever your debtor for reminding me of that curious passage in my life. During the first year or, two after it happened, I could not bear to think of it. My pain and shame were so intense, and my sense of having been an imbecile so settled, established and confirmed, that I drove the episode entirely from my mind–and so all these twenty-eight or twenty-nine years I have lived in the conviction that my performance of that time was coarse, vulgar, and destitute of humor. But your suggestion that you and your family found humor in it twenty-eight years ago moved me to look into the matter. So I commissioned a Boston typewriter to delve among the Boston papers of that bygone time and send me a copy of it. It came this morning, and if there is any vulgarity about it I am not able to discover it. If it isn’t innocently and ridiculously funny, I am no judge. I will see to it that you get a copy.” ….