This blog has seen me start and finish the biography of one of my heroes, Albert Einstein (written by Walter Isaacson). The end of his life was moving for me, and it made me reflect on the relationship I feel I got to have with such a great man. Opening his biography and reading about Einstein’s life, like his theory, made time relative to the observer (me). I read at my own pace, relived moments that happened already, but it all happened like for the first time. But then as the book drew to a close, death reclaimed its guest, and I am reminded that Einstein has been gone for over a half-century. Yet I am still saddened at his passing, even if it was through the text on a textured page. I think it reminded me of how fragile our lives are, and how much we should cherish the moments we are given.
What I think I admire most about the man was obviously his curious genius, but also the humaneness of his heart and his love for his fellow man. To his son Hans Albert, he said during his last week on Earth, “It is a joy for me to have a son who has inherited the main traits of my personality: the ability to rise above mere existence by sacrificing ones self through the years for an impersonal goal.” He was speaking of the field of science which he and his son had pursued and perused their lives through, and how they had bettered the world by their time and sacrifice. It reminded me of my time at Cambridge with the graduate student Fardad Afshari. He was finishing up his seventh year of medical school, and he said to me as we were in the lab, “I knew I needed to be a doctor and contribute something to the world. If I did not, then my life would be a waste.”
I don’t think that there is only one or two professions that people can really contribute to humanity. Nor do I think there needs to be some magnificent unparalleled contribution never before seen by humanity. But I think each person knows deep down what they can give. And they can choose to give it.
I think what is amazing as I have read the book is that I know that Albert Einstein was an ordinary man with ordinary traits and ordinary faults, but by doing ordinary tasks and working hard everyday, he accomplished extraordinary things. This is within the reach of all of us.
I am grateful to such a wise and cheerful icon of physics, and goodness, for a life that gives much to emulate.
An elegant equation for life