Sunday, 5 November 2017

Einstein's theory of happiness.

Ever wonder what advice the smartest man on earth would give to the world about happiness?

Well, wonder no more. Einstein gave the advice on two ex tempore hand scribbled notes. And there is a background to them. Here it is as reported.

In November 1922, Einstein was informed that he had won the coveted Nobel Prize in physics. At that time, he was travelling from Europe to Japan for a speaking tour.

In Japan, the crowd thronged to see him and he was impressed by their enthusiasm and passion. Inspired, Einstein then penned down his thoughts and feelings from his hotel room. 

It was at this time that a messenger arrived with a delivery and Einstein wanted to tip the messenger. But he found out that he did not have money with him. 

So, the Nobel laureate was heard to have said this to the messenger: "If you are lucky, the note themselves will some day be worth more than some spare change." He then handed those two historical notes on happiness to the messenger. 

Those thoughts about happiness would go on to benefit the lucky holder richly. 

The first note was sold for S$2.1m and the second note was sold at US$240,000. The seller who received the lucky windfall was a relative of the messenger. 

Lesson? Two, and it is about what was written or scribbled on those two notes. I am sure you are dying to know. 

Those words like his famed E=mc(square) equation must be time and space bending for us. It may even hold the key to the universe of happiness. 

First note reads: "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." (note that it is a constant restless success that makes an unhappy soul).

I guess that was with reference to the tsunamis of attention he was getting and how it had thrown his life into a dizzy tailspin. 

And the second note reads: "When there's a will, there's a way." 

I guess that was with reference to his perseverance to break the code of the universe and beyond with his general and special theories of relativity. It has practically transformed our understanding of the law of nature here and beyond. 

Mind you, this is a man who once challenged God, that is, the God that he understood to be (the Spinoza's God). 

He once said that: "When I am judging a theory, I ask myself whether, if I were God, I would have arranged the world in such a way."

And when he couldn't understand quantum physics to the extent that it did not fit into his theory of scientific predictability, he said these famed words:- 

"God does not play dice with the universe." 

To which, Neils Bohr would reply: "Einstein, stop telling God what to do!"

The reality is, just as in the quantum world, the world we live in, the circumstances we operate in, is such that things are arranged in a way that defies simple equations and formula. 

Each of us is trekking on our own uncharted journey both inside of us and out (as in how we sort our feelings within to respond to the changing circumstances without). 

No notes, wise sayings or aphorisms can capture the essence, struggles, victories and stumbles of a life just like scientists can never know for sure both the momentum and location of a subatomic particle at any given time in any given experiment (referring to the vexing Heisenberg uncertainty principle).

The truth is, Einstein had many happy moments in his life - his courtship with first wife Maric, his discovery of the greatest equation on earth, the Nobel Prize and the attention and fame, and birth of his first legitimate son, Hans Albert. 

But he also had many unhappy moments like the time he gave away his first child (Elizabeth) for adoption, his failed marriages, his extramarital indiscretion, and at the end of his life, he was isolated, treated somewhat like a pariah, because he refused to embrace that dastardly theory of quantum mechanics. 

In fact, Einstein once wrote this to his close friend's adult children when their father died:-

"What I admired most in him (Besso) as a person was the fact that he managed for many years to live with his wife not only in peace but in continuing harmony - something in which I have rather shamefully failed twice."

The grim fact is that the love of his life (his two wives and beloved sister, Maja) all died way before him. And ironically, he died alone on 18 April 1955 due to an aneurysm burst. The brilliant mind of his just gave up. 

And as he bled to death, he called out to a nurse. When she arrived, he whispered to her. But he spoke in German, so the nurse never knew what was said by the greatest mind of the last century. 

If I'd to hazard a guess, his last words may just be his last request to gather all his children to be by his side. 

I presume this because no one I know or read about who is heaving his last breath is ever interested in how much money, estate and fame he has achieved in life. He never asked to see his balance books or investment portfolios for the last time before the final breath. 

It is unfailingly the touch of family, the embrace of love, and the exchanges of tears that occupy the heart of the dying.

So, to his first note of happiness where he advised one to strive for a "calm and modest life," I can't say that his life is anything but calm and modest. 

A great scientist like him was swept away by fame and fortune beyond his wildest imagination. And when it comes to power, fame and fortune, we are all like children playing with dangerous industrial tools and radioactive materials. 

His pursuit of success has led him to a different garden-path of so-called happiness. It is one where he died alone, by the side of a panicky stranger, and leaving behind an utterance that the nurse could not understand. 

But having said that, when asked whether he wanted to undergo an operation to slow down the process of a possible aneurysm tear, Einstein said: "It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share."

Indeed he has, and the world will forever be grateful. He had transformed the world of science but the world within him like quantum mechanics was still very much uncharted territory for him. 

Lastly, his second note talks about a will and a way. This refers to a determined spirit to never give up in all your pursuit of what endears to your heart and soul. 

Indeed, there is always a way when there is a will. 

But as we embark upon our journey to pursue our dreams, we should never forget to return home because home is where the heart is, and where true, enduring success lies. Cheerz.

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