You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Happy Birthday Albert Einstein!

Albert Einstein was born 133 years ago today. This picture was taken on his 72nd birthday, March 14, 1951. He was pretty over the paparazzi at this point, the poor bloke.

Einstein was a complex character and much about him is misunderstood or misrepresented in the commonly accepted version of history, but the fact that he changed the way we saw the world remains undisputed.

When he was a young child, his family were concerned that he seemed slow to develop. He grew out of that, and into a cultural definition of the word 'genius.'

He loved women passionately and romantically, and was quite popular with the ladies, but wasn't a very good husband to his two wives, who stayed home and checked his math while he was out changing the world.

In his youth he engaged in political protests against World War 1, when he was firmly dedicated to absolute pacifism and supported conscientious objection. Later in life, the rise of the Nazis rattled him so much that he changed his stance and supported 'military preparedness.' In this spirit, he wrote to President Roosevelt to encourage the funding of a nuclear research program in 1939. This program went ahead, and became The Manhattan Project. Einstein was not included - he didn't get security clearance, thanks to his radical views. When the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Einstein's heart broke along with everything else that was broken that day. He lived in bitter regret for the letter he had written to Roosevelt for the rest of his life.

He rejected all forms of nationalism in his philosophy, but he highly valued his Jewish identity, which was integral to his experience and interpretation of world politics. He was a Zionist but believed in a manifestation of this that would see the Jews and Arabs living happily together as brothers. In 1952 he was offered the position of President of Israel, an offer he politely declined. I think that was for the best. I don't think politics was really his forte.

He showed the world that time and space is not the immutable reality that people believed in. He opened up previously impossible worlds, taking us through the Looking Glass and into the mysteries and magic of quantum mechanics. He was a dreamer, a poet, and a scientific mystic who saw maths as the language of God - a conclusion I came to myself by the end of high school, though I didn't realise then how much of my education at that point was indebted directly to Einstein's work.

I was born on Einstein's 99th birthday in 1978. By a peculiar quirk that I don't really understand, as I have never seriously studied numerology, if you write out the numerological chart for Einstein, it's identical to mine. We have all the same numbers in our birthdates. And our numerology number is 33, and we were born 99 years apart. I thought this was a little exciting when I discovered this fact when I was in high school. Up until that point, one of the more common nicknames I received in the schoolyard was 'Miss Einstein,' though it was never intended kindly. The other kids didn't like me because I was smarter than them. I think I can relate a little to the isolation and loneliness that Einstein experienced, and which he believed was necessary for him to devote himself to science.

God knows what could have happened if I had devoted myself to science. I think I would have been completely mad, however.

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