Lines to Love: Hey, Einstein! Happy Birthday!


This Wednesday is Albert Einstein’s birthday. Were he still alive, he would be approaching his 139th year, and wouldn’t that be quite the milestone. 

Albert Einstein is a favorite in our household. Aside from the fact that my mother gobbled up all the biographies concerning him, my husband is fascinated by quantum physics. Considering that Einstein was and still is, in many respects, on the forefront of theoretical physics, my husband has read a great deal of his scientific work and highly esteems him. I do, too, but for different reason, which we will get into today. 

I, myself, have read very little about the man. I know the basics, and by basics, I mean, I can pronounce the grandiose words that title his many achievements. The Theory of Relativity. The Manhattan Project. Entwurf theory. Wave-particle duality. Adiabatic principle. Unfortunately, I don’t know what any of those mean, not even cursorily. (I bet my husband would be all too happy to enlighten me, but alas, he’s not hear at the time of this writing…) Suffice it to say, Einstein was light years ahead of not just my own, but even his own understanding of his scientific discoveries.

But there was so much more to Albert than just his scientific contribution. He was a violinist, quite an accomplished one, who would get together with friends and play chamber music. He once remarked that the greatest joy in his life came from playing his violin, and said that if he were not a scientist, he would be a musician. I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure he once remarked that he thought in music. And, if his desire to be a musician surprises you, get a load of this one: Einstein nursed a life long fascination of becoming a plumber. How's that for quirky?

Whenever I think of Einstein, I can’t help but think of Walter Matthau, who played him so enjoyably in the romantic comedy, I.Q. This film is a delight, and if you have not seen it, it’s well worth the watch, if for nothing else than seeing Einstein, Gödel, Podolsky, and Liebknecht- four renowned and preeminent scientists- seated in a row in an auditorium, helping a younger man cheat on a difficult science exam in order to impress a girl. For some reason, though I’m pretty sure this did not happen, I can actually see Einstein doing such a thing, for although the man was a physicist to his core, he was also a man deeply in touch with the emotions and feelings of humanity. He’d want to help a young lad in such a worthy endeavor, of that, I’m certain. 

While the science may elude me, I do have a great fondness for many of the things which Einstein said in his lifetime. For a man who plumbed the unknown depths of space and time, he grasped many truths by which we can live our lives. Today, in celebration of the legacy Einstein has left us all- even those of us who can’t decipher one iota of his scientific work- I have compiled a list of my favorite lines that he said. 

Let us begin with one of the most humble, yet honest, quotes. Here Einstein offers why he was such a profound thinker and theorist:

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. 

In addition to his humility, I really appreciate the honesty with which he approached his field. Too often people who reach any sort of preeminence within any field, but particularly a scientific one, tend to be almost condescending in their manner, as though they have invented the wheel. Though he made strides which the scientific community are still trying to catch up to, Einstein never once took himself so seriously as to project that he knew what he was doing every step of the way.  

I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university. 

And, speaking of research, a thing which every writer knows all too well, I particularly adore this gem of advice:

Never memorize something that you can look up.

(There have been times in my writing life when I have lamented that I didn’t just remember something off the top of my head. Albeit, it’s usually an obscure piece of information, and I usually have the research book at hand, but, for some reason, I deride myself because I didn’t remember it. That quote by Einstein almost feels liberating. I mean, if Einstein says it…)


Now, my brother has brought these next two quotations home to roost for me. So often, I get caught up in the verbiage (as I’m a word person), and while getting caught up in the beauty of big words and whatnot, I lose the meaning. Here’s what Einstein has to say about that:

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

I particularly like that one. My brother highlights for me how often people revert to verbose language in an effort to ostracize others. Yet, Einstein would never look down his nose at anyone. In fact, he addressed that very thing: 

I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university. 

And given the quote prior to that one, Einstein never looked down his nose at conversing with children. In fact, when it came to children, he had some very telling advice regarding how to rear them. 

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

It’s important to realize one awesome thing about Einstein. While he was a very serious scientist, dedicated to his career, he was also a musician. In fact, he called himself an artist. 

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.

I know I’ve used that quote before (see post here), but since it is one of my favorites, it bears repeating. 

I also happen to love Einstein’s take on reality versus imagination. The next three quotes are a progression of his thoughts. I love each one and thoroughly agree. (If you missed my thoughts on the importance of imagination, see post here.)


Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

(Don’t you love the humor in that one?) 

Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.

(I particularly love how he shows that logic is limited, but that, through out imagination, we can open up the scope of possibility, and thereby, learn more.)

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. 

And, now, I’ll leave you with two pieces of wisdom. 

This first one is sound advice for all of us to follow in our day to day:

A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.

This next one is more than advice. This is a creed to live by and build one’s life upon. 

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

To view all things as a miracle requires a perpetual sense of wonder. I believe, because of the grandeur he uncovered in the scientific world around him, Einstein lived in that state of wonder and therefore saw everything around him as a miracle. It may sound like I’m being a bit of a Pollyanna, but I believe viewing the world from such a vantage adds limitless happiness to one’s life. 

Do you agree? What’s your favorite Einstein quote? Or, perhaps, you’re like my husband or mother, and have a story or anecdote about Einstein that you love. Please share it with us. I know I’d like to hear it.