Albert Einstein

Photo: Yousuf Karsh, 1948

Albert Einstein (1879-1955):
E=mc2 (1907), "The Mysterious" (1931),
"A Man of Value" (1955), "Universe" (1949)

Ezra Pound said "Poetry is heightened intensity, simplicity, and precision born of concentrated attention." It reminded me of the Haiku master Basho who could distill an experience of nature in a short haiku of 17 syllables. Then Einstein's equation E=mc2 dawned upon me as an even shorter poem— it's only 6-syllables, simple, precise, and born of concentrated attention. There's definitely heightened intensity in Energy, so E=mc2 fits all of Pound's definition of poetry. It is also in tune with what Pinsky said in his first class (Jan. 10, 2007) to the Stanford students when citing Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium"— "If you wish to do well in any field, study things that are monumental." Certainly, Einstein took upon himself to study this monumental universe with everything in it, and came up with such a simple and beautiful formula. So I'm including Einstein in this Poetry Anthology with some of his remarks that sounds quite poetic. I've followed Einstein's formula in my research work, using only six simple rules in predicting protein structures instead of sophisticated computer methods. I also admire Einstein's cosmic frame of mind and try to live a life of compassion and practice being a man of value. Einstein has given me many treasures, and I'm only too happy in passing them on in this Poetry Anthology. (Peter Y. Chou)

E = mc2

Energy = mass x (speed of light)2

— Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
     "On the Inertia of Energy Required by the Relativity Principle"
     (Über die vom Relativitätsprinzip geforderte Trägheit der Energie)
     Annalen der Physik, Vol. 23 (1907), p. 238

Wonder of the Mysterious

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental
emotion which 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 in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

— Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
     Living Philosophies
     Simon Schuster, New York, 1931, pp. 3-7

A Man of Value

Try not to become a man of success,
but rather try to become a man of value.
He is considered successful in our day
who gets more out of life than he puts in.
But a man of value will give more than he receives.

(This was Einstein's reply to a father's request for advice to his son who
was going to enter Harvard during their visit to Einstein's Princeton home.
— reported in Life, May 2, 1955)


One of the most poignant exchanges, in Einstein's role as a philosopher came
when he was 70 and living in Princeton [1949]. An ordained rabbi had written
explaining that he had sought in vain to comfort his 19-year old daughter
over the death of her sister, "a sinless, beautiful 16-year old child."

Einstein wrote in reply:

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part
limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings
as something separated from the rest— a kind of optical delusion of his
consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us
to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle
of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in
its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving
for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation
for inner security.”

                            — Peter Y. Chou, Albert Einstein & the Wisdom Mudra (1980)
                                 Quote from The New York Times, March 29, 1972
                                 (Jon Kabat-Zinn gave me this quote after we attended
                                 Swami Chinmayanda's MIT talk on Kena Upanishad at 6 am.)

Selected Web Links:
Nobel Prize: Albert Einstein
   (Biography, Presentation & Banquet Speech, Documentary, Resources)
Albert Einstein: Image & Impact
   (Formative Years, Great Works, Quantum & Cosmos Science & Philosophy)
Essay: "The World As I See It"
   (Forum and Century, Vol. 84, pp. 193-194; Living Philosophies, 1931)

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (3-6-2007)