Saturday, 21 January 2017

Book Review : Einstein - His Life And Universe


Image result for EINSTEIN – HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSEBiographies can tend to be among the most tedious to read, unless you are from that particular field, or harbor a deep passion in it; I had neither going for me. In fact, I was most doubtful about reading this – but was taken in by the enthusiasm shown by Rohit Sharma, one of my close friends. So enthusiastic was he, so agog with excitement that I was pulled into reading a genre I run away from, and run away as fast as my legs would carry me. So it was with some trepidation, to put it mildly, that I started out on this journey into the world of Albert Einstein…

And I can wholeheartedly admit, this stands as one of the most educative books I have encountered in quite a while. It was easy to read, easy to comprehend – at least for anyone with a basic grounding in Science – and I am a Science Grad. It is not a fast read; it can get quite detailed at times; and in many places, it is deep philosophically as well, in addition to the bits on science. The scientific aspects and parts were not too complex – not for me at any rate; the philosophical and political aspects were both interesting, riveting as well as took time to absorb – as I would frequently relate the experiences to the current world, as well as the implications in those times.

It is an entire life chronicle of Albert Einstein, his world – the world he lived and interacted in at least insofar as it affected him, his science, his nature and philosophy, his internal tribulations in regard to religion, his external interactions with regard to religion, his life-long struggle, his momentous contributions to science, his stunning perspicacity and far-sightedness in a variety of matters, his personal life and relationships, his politics and the politics in the environment in which he co-habited : it isn’t just the life story of a scientist; it is the story of a era, and of a famous man who lived in that era through a constant struggle despite being world-famous…

This is a book on many levels – it is the story of an entire era through the lens of a Jewish Scientist, a conscientious decent scientist, a genius and a difficult eccentric man. It is the revealing and educational story of a life of a stunning and humbling struggle, a life with a constant hunt and a never-stopping chase; it is the story of 50+ years in which the world changed around an individual – a story in which you can see the momentous changes happening… it is the story of the Western History from approx 1900 onwards, a story that leaves you with innumerable take-aways.

First – this is the story of the Jewish people, above everything else. It may be about Einstein – but through Einstein, you can see the impact of oppression or sidelining on the thought process of an individual; you can see the thoughts of Einstein changing with time as he observes, and you can see him become more and more Jewish in his policies, his philosophy and his politics. And you can see the reverse through his friends, as some Jews try to adjust – and then the Christians who become more and more hardline towards Jews, even friends. This book is an unmissable lesson in sociology!

Second – this is a book about struggle, about never giving up, about not admitting defeat, about conviction and about hard work. It is also a book about compromise, as even a man like Einstein had to struggle 9 years just to get a science professor’s job, and 22 years for true recognition. It is a book about self-belief, and a focused work ethic toward that self-belief. It is also a book that drives home a strong hard lesson – that the world is full of people with pre-concieved notions, selfish dotards and less-qualified people; and that if you have to prove your point, just about the only way is not to give up!

Third – this is a book on politics, and teaches us many a lesson; as well as exposes the West and its shenanigans in no uncertain terms. You get to read that Einstein never supported the creation of Israel. His observations are a standing lesson to anyone who dreams of mixing Religion with Politics. His views on the Atomic Weapon, which he first and last regarded as a tragedy, are a standing sermon to western leaders and people; as are his practical views in supporting armament in Nukes, saying they are a must for self-protection {which is exactly India’s stance by the way}

Fourth – this book is a standing testimony to political stupidity and world myopia, as people after people went after crass stupidty; first the Germans towards anti-semitism, then the Jewish example and then the idiocy of communism and its US aftermath in the McCarthy years. You read with rising surprise and tragic amusement at the heavy handed tactics of that great Democracy the USA against its own people. You read about a civilization that is just unable to conceptualise a separation of the state from Religion, a state of affairs that in my opinion continues to this day – something that seems strange to us Sanaatan Dharm people {Hindus} who are very easily able to separate the two!

But above all, this book is about human nature- about the willingness to work hard, to dream, to imagine, to create rather than discover; to be human, and to keep smiling through it all. He was a man with faults, he was often wrong – but he was also ready to accept that he was wrong; and that makes the difference. This is manifest in his changing views on Israel, Judaism, Science, Atomic Weapons etc; the way he changes practically is remarkable. This book is a lesson in being a good human being, warts and all. It is a book that leaves you with innumerable take-aways on many, many levels…

And it is a book that  conclusively proves the inherent capability of the Human Mind… and the power of thought & imagination, the strength of insight. Most of the famous theories were first conceived as thoughts, and not born from experiments. Einstein knew he was right; at times it took well over several years to prove him right, and yet he went ahead and published! That tells us something powerful : and teaches us to be a whole lot less skeptical about our own ancient literature – as the educated Indian is habitual of putting down as being mythical!

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