A bit from Einstein

I confess that if there is one human whom I come close to worshiping, it is Albert Einstein.

[Picture source.]

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity… Never lose a holy curiosity.”

From “The World As I See It.” (Hat tip: Veer.)

My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality… The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.

This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor… This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

What we chiefly need is “the creative, sentient individual.” The individual is the principal, not the state. I think that to the extent that India has deviated from considering the individual at the top and instead put the state at the top, India is suffering. We have to make the state subservient to the individual, not the other way around.

6 thoughts on “A bit from Einstein

  1. pankaj Tuesday March 18, 2008 / 3:29 pm

    Atanu
    Individualism is basically a western idea,not only indian but the whole non west there is no Individualism,so india is not unique in it ,in Non western countries, groups are more important than the single person.
    it would be unwise to impose western ideas on India or non western countries in the same way as Bush is trying to impose democracy to the rest of the world(ie.non western ) democracy is to not valid for india ,it is a fedual society for time immemorial, we have had kings and queens since very long time, and that mentality is still carried to this day,as you well know who is the queen of india(hint Italian).True democracy will never take roots for a long time in india as in a democracy the lynchpin is the single person not group.

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  2. Prashant2 Wednesday March 19, 2008 / 8:34 pm

    Pankaj: If you read European history – there were once kingdoms which ruled Europe, in fact Britain, Spain, France, Germany etc. all trace back their roots to feudal kingdoms.

    Even within UK there were four kingdoms – English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh.

    So if Europe could come out of it and develop individualism, I fail to understand why can’t India or Asia?

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  3. Prashant2 Wednesday March 19, 2008 / 8:38 pm

    Pankaj – one more thing – in this age of globalization there is nothing like western idea or eastern idea (you can put them in record books). There are only (i) good and progressive ideas , or (ii) poor and regressive ideas.

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  4. Amit Wednesday March 19, 2008 / 9:07 pm

    Pankaj – one more thing – in this age of globalization there is nothing like western idea or eastern idea (you can put them in record books). There are only (i) good and progressive ideas , or (ii) poor and regressive ideas.

    Well said, but among us edumacated folks indulging in some IIM (internet intellectual masturbation), how many have read books and been exposed to ideas by say, Tagore, Aurobindo, Ishwarchand Vidyasagar (just to name a few – feel free to add more) vs. Rand, Rousseau, Thoreau, Toffler, Friedman, Dawkins etc.? I wouldn’t be incorrect in saying that majority of us have looked to Western authors to satiate our reading thirst, and that’s what has formed the bulk of our reading. How do we even know that an idea is good or bad if we are unaware of other ideas, which is essential for comparison? Most of us would know more about the philosophy of Wittgenstein or Nietzsche than say, Vivekanand.

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  5. dp.chalasani Thursday March 20, 2008 / 6:34 am

    @Pankaj, Amartya Sen’s ” The Argumentative Indian” provides a very different view-point compared to what you say. I suggest reading the book.

    As Amit mentions, I admit I am guilty or have been guilty until recently of reading more of western ideas and very little from India. One reason for that is ease of access or the lack of it. Indian writing is difficult to get hold of and once you do it is only a translation, sometime a bad translation. Reading the original language means investing the time to learn Sanskrit or Bengali etc.

    A good idea must be absorbed irrespective of the source.

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  6. Amit Tuesday March 25, 2008 / 7:12 am

    dp.chalasani,

    My intention was not to make anyone feel guilty – the fact I mentioned is what it is – a result of the environment I grew up in (and probably it’s the same for many others). At least in hindsight I now realize that imbalance and if I so desire, can offset it by reading books by Indian writers who interest me. 🙂

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