Coffee with Einstein
By Liesl Garner on January 27, 2013
It has been a while since I have written strictly for the fun of it, just to let my mind wander and circle around something ephemeral, and then dance with the next thought that popped into my head; spinning around in the swirl of ideas and wonders. Lately, I have been putting things together for our farm's online presence, which means lots of fun pictures and getting the Facebook page up and running and attracting friends to the page and followers. It's a marketing girl's dream and so I am loving it.
This morning, though, I woke up early to have time to sit and read and ponder the great questions, just for fun. This morning, being Sunday, it seems fitting to soak in the depths of the cosmos and some of the great thinkers of our time. I picked up a birthday book from my oldest son, called Einstein and Religion. Michael gave this book to me when he and Joey (our first set) still lived at home, and my Benjamin was just a baby. Benjamin is now eight and we also have Bean who is five. The last couple of years haven't really been big reading years for me, unless it has been reading kid's books.
My morning time to get up before light, and have time for just me and my whirling thoughts, time to write, and time to read, has been an exercise I have started in the last year, and it has given me a place in our incredibly busy lives, to be still and breathe and daydream and be. Without this extra time, I would have no time to devote to the side of me that is deeply philosophical, and in fact, a bit ridiculous in my adoration of scientists, mathematicians, and people who lived their lives for the sole purpose of exploring great thoughts. Oh - what a life!
Michael always understood how to work me. I could be steaming mad at him for something, but if he could turn the conversation to a philosophical question, suddenly we were discussing and questioning things together, and exploring the world of thought and conjecture. That boy could seriously debate anything, but he did it respectfully and with a mind that actually questioned the same things I questioned, so even if we were on opposite sides of an issue for discussions sake, we were of the same outlook that all sides should be considered.
The fact that he knew me so well as to think to get me a book about Einstein and Religion proved to me that we were no longer a blended family, but made of the same stuff, that would keep us connected for all time. He is bringing his girlfriend up here this summer to marry her on the property, and I am more than ever overwhelmed with adoration for that young man.
My little boys love Math and we play math games together. We were just talking last night about college around the dinner table. They are considering where to go, which seems odd since Bean hasn't even started Kindergarten yet. Ben is currently contemplating the Oregon Institute of Technology, because M.I.T. was where Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) studied, and I have convinced him that being at a school that is only 30 minutes away would give us the opportunity to share in his successes on campus. (That was a close one.)
I have lately been reading about the Mathematician Paul Ardos (pronounced Air-Dish), one of the greatest mathematician's of all time. Last night I was reading a magazine article about an Oregonian Chess Grandmaster*, and was on the edge of my seat with excitement over the nail-biting suspense of the story. I was a little breathless by the end, and had tears in my eyes.
It is beginning to dawn on me that I am more than a little bit of a nerd.
And yet, I like the places my mind goes to wander. The ideas that inspire me and get me going are connected to some of the great thinkers down through time. There is a chord that binds us, and that thought thrills me.
This morning, I am having coffee with Einstein and exploring the great question of the existence of God. Once another scientist threw this question at him,
"Professor! I hear that you are supposed to be deeply religious?" Calmly and with great dignity, Einstein replied, "Yes, you can call it that. Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious."*
I have wavered in my devotion to "the church" and her sad portrayal of herself in public. I have been disgusted by the politics, the posturing, the brutality, the wars fought in the name of... I have been sad beyond belief over a loss of my own innocence in belief and faith. I have never lost my sense of delight in the mysteries of nature, the perfection found in rhythms and cycles, the mathematical beauty to be found in living things, the logic that exists at the base of cause and effect. And for me, there is a beauty in the mystery.
As we are learning to farm, I am more delighted by growing things than I can describe. The idea that all the complex instructions for growth inhabit a tiny seed, and unfurl into all the myriad shapes and heights and sizes and colors that exhibit in our garden - that is a wonder of wonders and proof of a grand design.
That there is beauty at all in the world, that there are still those determined to find it, admire it, create it, and showcase it, is reason enough to celebrate. Beauty in the world is cause for joy, and cause for reverence. That there is a mastermind behind the rhythms and precise calculations that create a sense of order to that beauty is perfectly plausible, and in itself a quiet assurance that the answer is much bigger than the question. That is enough for me. That right there makes me revel in a happy dependence on something I cannot define, for if it were capable of explanation, it would no longer be big enough to demand my awe.
And with that, I rest blessed, and ready for my day. We are off to get some bottle baby goats today to put with our herd, and the babies our own mama goats are expecting any day.
photo from here
*H.G. Kessler, The Diary of a Cosmopolitan, p. 322, quoted in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion, p. 39.
*I could not link to the article by Casey Bush, King Arthur, printed in the magazine 1859 - Oregon's Magazine, p. 74, so I linked to a wikipedia description of Arthur Dake, the Chess Grandmaster.
Liesl Garner, Poet and Pig-Farmer
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