Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meeting Albert Einstein

No, this is not an altered history story, as some steampunk folks like to write and read, but a different kind of history jump or time travel, if you will.  Bare with me and I'll explain. Lat night, Einstein presented his amazing theories to a couple of hundred of so followers in Greenville on the campus of Greenville Tech beneath a huge tent. Fans were handed out and we were first treated to a young violinist, Steve Neal, who performed both Bach and songs meant for the fiddle such as Appalachian reels.  He performed because Einstein also plays the violin.  It says it help him to think and come up with his theories - so either Steve was meant to help the audience open they minds to these wild thoughts of Einstein or perhaps it was for Einstein himself to learn the ways to present his theories so a mainstream audience could understand. And that he did, with humor and insight, amazing with and odd little quirks and facial cues, he smoked his pipe and wrote on his chalkboard and explained his theories so we did, indeed, understand.  What an amazing and quirky man! Everything I'd pictured him to be, except perhaps for his level of wit and humor.  He loves to mystify first and then explain watching the awareness grow on the faces of his listeners. Granted he lapsed into scientific lingo and German form time to time but quickly observed the puzzled looks on our faces and backed up to explain.  He was honest about his personal life when questioned later and eagerly explained his beliefs that all scientists should study psychology and he reminisced about his days in Greenville, SC when he came to visit his son Hans who lived on Randal St. and worked in soil conservation with Clemson.  Einstein also described the sad days of  how his 5 year old grandson died of diphtheria in Greenville and is buried in Woodlawn and then the physicists went further back and spoke about his difficulties in World War 1 and World War II as a Jewish German.
Indeed, we became quite an intimate audience when a storm arose, the tent flapped and expanded, the skies threatened and people stopped waving the paper fans and looked at each other in fear.
"How I love a storm!" He said! I had to agree. After all he created many. I would have stayed out there no matter the weather as long as he was talking to us.
But the coordinators of the evening encouraged us to move inside out of harms way into one of the college's buildings. Because the auditorium was still locked, we all crowded into the small lobby, some folks sitting on the floor cross-legged, a few unlucky souls still outside the crowded doorway watching him through the windows as the winds picked up.  Einstein in his exuberant desire to continue his answer to a question jumped up on a chair (it was a bit difficult, he is a bit too old for such stunts) but he regaled us from the chair with the same energy and openness, making eye contact.  As we were then allowed to file into the auditorium,.I thought I would faint, just having one of the most brilliant minds of all time, walk by me within inches. Smiling, his eyes crinkled.  "How I love a storm!" 
Fortunately for us here in Greenville, there is a cultural anomaly called Chautauqua.  It started many years ago as a tent series and continues in a number of states.  Baltimore and Florida are the closest ones to us.  And the reason Einstein walked again in Greenville is because Chautauqua sponsors evenings with amazing historical figures who changed the face of history, authors, scientists, humanists and presidents, magicians and, humorists, plains women and political movers and shakers. But they don't do it in lecture form.  What is so  amazing is that the historical figure comes along before your eyes and you are transported back to their world. These are not ordinary actors but men and women who are also historians, nationally prominent historically interpreters who study for the parts for anywhere form a year to years. They know every little quirk and flaw, every secret story about the famous people they present.  They enjoy long question and answer sessions and answer form their hearts - Einstein revealed how, yes he did fudge his theory to maintain the idea that the universe was constant not expanding at a rapidly growing pace as is now theorized.  He admitted he messed up his math in the theory and was corrected by his high school math teacher. Only through a personal conversation with him, did we learn this.  He told us things he does not disclose to the press!
Larry Bonds was just mesmerizing.  I didn't feel as if I stepped back in time so much as I'd met Einstein in a sort of blended time, his time and ours, superimposed upon each other. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fabulous event or talk. How amazing.

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