Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Einstein's Theory of a Good Life

I often wonder what the key is to life. I sit in cafes or on sidewalk benches (like now, in front of BookCourt in Cobble Hill) hoping to glean good advice or even just glimpse bits and pieces of what others do for clues on what to do myself. I have taken, lately, to reading (or at least scanning) big biographies of genius thinkers, writers, artists, the great minds, in hopes that the ways they chose to live might provide some salient insights.

Last night, flipping through Walter Isaacson's tome about Einstein, borrowed from my father-in-law, I came upon a bit of advice Einstein gave to his troubled son and thought it worth sharing.

"People who live in society, enjoy looking into each other's eyes, who share their troubles, who focus their efforts on what is important to them and find this joyful -- these people lead a full life."

I agree wholeheartedly. I have, even without knowing Einstein's urging to do so, been doing this. I look into people's eyes every day, many times a day, I make a point of it in recent years, putting my own insecurity aside to really see others. Often, of course, such eye contact leads to a gold star giveaway.

Take yesterday, for example. Checking out Eli's many books at the Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza, I smiled at the man behind the counter. I thought he had some new device that would allow him to check out all the books in one fell swoop.

He laughed. "No," he said, "if it were that easy I'd be out of a job..."

"True," I said, "so I guess we can be thankful modern technology isn't better than it is..."

I gave him a gold star for doing the job that we still, mercifully, need done by a human.

"Wow," he said, taking it gratefully, "I need to get my girlfriend some of these so that she can give me gold stars when I do something good!"

I smiled. "Yes. Or maybe you should give them to her when she does nice things...See, it can work both ways!"

Sharing, recognition, focus...these are the important things, the keys to life, if only we can keep them in mind.

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