Posts Tagged 'einstein'

Do You Believe In Miracles?


There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.
Albert Einstein

On the long road back to California from Christmas in my hometown, this quote from the German-born physicist grabbed hold of my brain and begged to be pondered.

I turned it over and over in my head, arriving at this conclusion:

The central question is whether you wish to believe there is purpose to life.

The first case is guided by a belief disconnected people smack against each other coincidentally, a haphazard sequence of actions leads to events large and small. Day-to-day choices — and, by extension, life as a whole — are basically irrelevant.

In short, we merely exist for a time and die with some joy sprinkled in to make the grind easier to bear.

Such an attitude quickly leads to disillusionment and detachment — nothing really matters, why be concerned with consequences? We wander around grumbling about circumstances without understanding our worth or the boundless possibilities of every day between birth and death.

Our time is a series of inconsequential actions crossing over with others’ inconsequential actions narrated by the voice(s) in our heads.

It is very challenging to have an adventure this way.

In the second philosophy, every moment is imbued with design. Individuals cross paths in a specific order and for designated reasons. Lives are knitted together such that we are eager to see what’s next.

Thus, the whole universe becomes a symphony.

Each instrument’s sound blends into a magnificent result under the direction of a spirited master conductor. Every note resonates perfectly as one concerto bleeds into the next.

A “fantastic coincidence,” has implicit direction from a loving God.  When a “chance meeting” works out for good, there is a tacit acknowledgment of purpose, an unconscious nod to something pulling things together — regardless of how much one works to suppress it.

No matter how hard the heart, a question always comes up:

Is it “good luck”?  Or is it “good God”?

The miraculous goes beyond our willingness to accept.

It occurs and we can only shake our heads.

Deep down, we know.

Even the worst experiences — those in which the strongest believer turns to the sky and asks, “How could You let this happen?” — have value when viewed with perspective.

Heartache becomes a blessing instead of a curse.

Isn’t that a miracle?



The Monk’s Prayer

The Gift from Above

Imagination v. Knowledge

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Albert Einstein

These words from the German physicist are often trotted out by the personal development industry as “the previews of life’s coming attractions” or cited by college kids as a reason to skip class on sunny Spring afternoons.

Superficially, the statement is a testament to the power of creative thinking as opposed to rote memorization and repetition. There is more to it than simply daydreaming when you should be doing something else.


Action must follow. If life was simply made up of the ideas we put forth on a daily basis, I would have dated Jessica Simpson while an undergrad, canoodled with Natalie Portman in Palau during chiropractic college and married Rachel McAdams last year. While these are all pleasant thoughts, being unable to create the link between fantasy and reality leaves them in the realm of fairy tales.

Imagination leads to innovation, so you must dream.

If the mind had never been allowed to wander into new solutions for old dilemmas, you’d be living on the savanna in south-central Africa using a piece of grass to pull ants from the ground. Engaging your capacity to seek out the ideal situation activates the problem-solving portions of your brain and produces all sorts of potential answers to the puzzling questions in your work and home life.

Knowledge is merely reiteration of facts.

Think of the tests you took throughout your education. You likely stuffed all the information you could into your brain and then poured it out into the tiny bubbles on your test form. You repeated the established truths and moved on, only barking them out again if required to.

You probably still do this eight or more hours a day in a cubicle, silently hoping for an opportunity to produce something game-changing. Why wouldn’t you?

Deep down, everyone knows imagination drives knowledge.  Always has, always will.

Though what you’ve learned can jump-start your quest, by igniting your interest or defining boundaries for you to destroy, inspired thinking shapes what you choose to learn and leads to everything you discover.

Consider Einstein himself, who pulled some of the most revolutionary and complex ideas in history from “thought experiments”. By envisioning hypothetical situations (“If I could pursue a beam of light…”) and sifting through the various outcomes, he turned physics on its ear. Even the most respected researchers of his time had trouble believing him, particularly as it took years to prove what he’d drawn on paper.

By steadfastly defending the validity of his results, the patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland upset the apple cart of Newtonian classical mechanics and opened whole areas of study for generations to come.

Blasphemy became truth because of an imagination at work.

What are you doing to defame the status quo today?


Believing In Possibility

4 Rules for Inspiration

I Dare You

4 Rules for Inspiration

I wrote about one of my favorite pieces of music today, the 14:20 of unbridled genius that is contained within the performance of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” by the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. Discussing the nature of the scintillating improvisation by Paul Gonsalves during his solo pushed me to define my strategy for maximizing the creative impulse.

1. Don’t force it
Though this would seem to be a no-brainer, I find myself struggling with the desire to mechanize my writing process sometimes. It is easy to become impatient and demand ingenuity right now, which inevitably leads to pressure and frustration. You might as well lock the doors, put out the “Go Away” mat and turn on the super-sensitive-motion-detector security system. The stress response literally scrambles the signals to the frontal cortex, the part of your brain which guides abstract thought.

Find a way to relax.

Albert Einstein sat at his kitchen table playing violin when struggling with a theory.  Letting his mind wander through dozens upon dozens of notes somehow led him to untangle the complexity of theoretical physics and define concepts that were totally unknown. Think a couple of sonatas might do you some good?

2. Be prepared
Wherever you go, have some means of recording what comes to mind. By giving yourself a channel for expression whenever the idea strikes, you’ll be more apt to get all of the minutiae of your thoughts recorded instead of reaching into fuzzy memories–if you have any–and lamenting the lost details.  My iPhone goes with me everywhere (except the shower) and, in the case of Gonsalves at Newport, it was a saxophone.

Whether it’s something high-tech like a digital voice recorder or low-fi like a pen and paper, keep your tools close by.

3. Take everything you’re given

When you feel the lightning bolt thump you in the brain, make a note of all that comes to mind. Regardless of the time and whether it takes a minute or an hour, it’s best to get your thoughts out into the free air. Without oxygen and care, your ideas wilt (see#4). Take down each word without judgment, you will arrange and revise later.

My post on truth from earlier this week, and several others that will be developed over the coming weeks and months, came along during a 45-minute burst of activity at about 2:30am Tuesday. (I think it’s worth the lost sleep.) At Newport, Ellington directed Gonsalves to “just play” during the bridge between “Diminuendo” and “Crescendo.”  This led to 27 (and, on one occasion an astonishing 60) choruses of brilliance residing where once a simple piano riff  had been.

Trust yourself and let fly. You may build a mansion where a shack was before.

4. Act on it
This is the most important step–taking the idea and continuing to pump life into it. I’ve found that energy settles quickly and forcefully when it’s held up, like a raging river crashing against a dam. If I had a dollar for every time a concept came to me and ended up resting somewhere in a neglected corner, then I’d be a wealthy man.

Make a move to sustain the force of that first surge as best you can. You’ll be very glad you did.

What do you do to make sure your great ideas come to fruition?


Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves

1 Way To Know You’ve Found Truth

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