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Book 18 Completed

March 20, 2010

“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.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Erika permalink
    March 20, 2010 11:32 pm

    Of all the days I randomly check your blog, you’ve just finished my book! And I have to say, I laughed when I saw your previous post. Opps. šŸ™‚ Switzerland. Right. And I’m so glad you didn’t have to choose between two wonderful books. I recently purchased the Book Thief, after devouring a library owned copy in a matter of days.

    But seriously, I’m just so glad you enjoyed Einstein’s Dreams. Plenty to ponder with each re-read, too. šŸ™‚

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