The Smart Set
So, Albert Einstein was a smart guy, no?
That’s a tongue-in-cheek line, natch. From the 1920s through 1950s and even into the ’60s a bit, people used to call smart guys Einsteins. Conversely, when someone did something mind-bogglingly stupid, people might say, “Nice goin’, Einstein.”
I’m thinking about AE because yesterday a college-aged woman and her parents came into the Book Corner, browsed for a while, and then the young woman came up to the counter to buy the Penguin Classics edition of Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and the General Theory.
Neat, I thought. I told the young woman I’d read once that you really need to have studied about fifteen years of advanced math in order to fully comprehend Relativity. She smiled, shrugged, and said, “Well, I’m going to give it my best shot.”
“That’s precisely what I did,” I told her.
And then I wondered why it’s so odd that a young woman would be buying a copy of Einstein’s magnum opus. The answer is simple: We live in a weird world where the genitalia you possess dictate how smart you should allow yourself to be.
Then again, we seem to be sliding into an age wherein even people with penises thumb their noses at brains. At least in this holy land.
For instance, we have no commonly-used nickname for smart folks. When’s the last time you heard somebody call another a Hawking or a de Grasse Tyson?
Nice Goin’, Hawking!
Matter of fact, I think I’m gonna start that trend.
Anyway, here’s as neat a quote as I can imagine, spoken by Einstein to the noted theological scholar Thomas Merton [pointed out by a former member of the Ever-So Secret Order of the Lamprey, Michael Bulka]:
My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a “lone traveller” and have never belonged to my country, my house, my friends, or even my immediate family with my whole heart; in the face of these ties I have never lost a sense of distance and need for solitude — feelings which increase with the years. One becomes sharply aware, but without regret, of the limits of mutual understanding and consonance with other people. No doubt such a person loses some of his innocence and unconcern; on the other hand he is largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgements of his fellows and avoids the temptations to build his inner equilibrium on such insecure foundations.
I hope I’m not being presumptuous when I say I want that to describe me in some small way.
Einstein & Merton
As a coda to the story of the young woman, I told her I was happy she was reading Einstein. I learned she’s not studying physics or any other hard science; she just wants to learn about Relativity. For the hell of it.
I said: Wow!
Her mother, taking note of my amazement, piped up: “Hey, that’s why we sent her to college; so she can read books like that!”
That’s rare. And it’s too bad that’s rare.
Lotus Fest Sked
That’s it, kiddies. Lotus Fest 2014 wraps up today with one final performance.
Sunday, September 21st
● 3pm: World Spirit Concert: Arga Bileg & Derek Gripper Buskirk Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave.