Book 18 Completed
“If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly.” Alan Lightman — Einstein’s Dreams
I am sitting in a nearly empty Bella Espresso at Cannon Beach; there isn’t a cloud in the sky, the air is warm. With my coffee, my laptop, and my copy of Einstein’s Dreams, I can’t help but ponder these theories of time presented in Lightman’s potent novel.
– Have I been here before? Have I done this exact same thing? Written these words? In this world, am I doomed to make the same mistakes? Will I fall in love with the same people?
– What if there are dozens of Shelbis out there? Each time I make a decision, an alternate path of time opens up. What if I am actually in Hawaii right now, with a different husband, different children? What if Shelbi the teacher married to Matthew with Elliott is only one of the options. Maybe there is a Shelbi out there who finished law school. Maybe there is one who stayed in Japan. Went to Georgetown. What if I went through my life and calculated all those moments where I picked A instead of B? What if it all happened anyway?
– What if time stood still closer to the center of the world? What if I could stop my little boy from growing up – keep him in this place, this time, forever? If I could prevent my own aging — remain at this age forever?
– What if the earth is infinite? But what if it is slowly building to finite end?
And what if I told you there was a way to make Einstein’s theory of relativity accessible? I know, right? But this book provides the non-physicist a way to conceptualize those theories of time that have long eluded people like me who have taken their notions of time and the space-time continuum from “Back to the Future” and LOST.
Lightman is a physicist and an instructor of Humanities at MIT. And he has written a book that operates on the premise that while Einstein was working on his theory of relativity in Switzerland, he would dream up a new concept of time every night. Those “dreams” are then recorded into these poetic vignettes — and woven between the dreams are small interludes into Einstein’s life.
The book reads quickly — if you have a few hours (on a plane, sitting in a coffee shop) you could devour the whole book in one sitting. I think the book then begs to be read again — it is so ridiculously quotable. I found myself itching to grab a pencil and mark the whole thing up…but it wasn’t my book — and post-its weren’t going to cut it this time. I’ll buy my own copy. It’s worth keeping around on a shelf — to flip through, to ponder. I was fully drawn into the dreams; I was pondering time in new ways. And since I carried this book around with me all during conferences on Thursday and through staff-development on Friday, I had half-a-dozen people say, “I LOVE that book. It’s fantastic!”
Yes, it really is fantastic. Not in a plot-driven way. Not in a development of character way. But in a way that has staying power. In a way that will effect the way you view time forever. Read it. It’s worth it.