Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

I could not resist….


The author sits, in front of him a pile of galley proofs, it is his book about the nature of time. He starts at the end, reading, checking, and as he does so the words disappear from the page, each page from the pile. He looks forward to finishing his work. Eventually the first letter disappears from the page, the first that began the book. He sits, reflecting upon the empty space in front of him. He should write a book, he thinks to himself. Yes, a book about the nature of time.


In one world he says each morning to his daughter that he must write that book he keeps talking about and she replies that he has already written it, and shows it to him. He is very surprised, picks it up and reads it with interest. It is just what he wanted to say, he thinks with satisfaction. He goes to bed. And in the morning he says to his daughter….


In another world, he is sure he’s written the book, it is there clearly in his mind’s eye. But when he asks his son to bring it to him, he asks what book he is talking about? There is no book. He must write it then, right now put down the vision of it he sees in his head. He sits down, pen in hand, blank paper on the table and floats into his vision and writes and rewrites. It grows dark. He is exhausted with writing. He goes to bed. The paper on the table is still blank.


The author sits, eyes closed, looking at the words spinning around in his head, a jumble of words, the very exact words he knows would make his book, but try as he might, he cannot put them in order. In this world time is higgledy-piggledy, the effect is to make the words unruly. Even as he thinks he is affixing one to the page, it escapes and something else stares up at him. Nonsense. Sheer nonsense time in this world makes of words.


In another world the author finds he must write about the nature of time, but every few pages just when he has finished his task he realised it might instead be this. Or that. Or all of them. It is fast, slow, forward or backward moving, fixed or chaotic, neat or predictable or not. Simple, complex, art, science, everything, nothing, the source of all happiness. The source of all tears.


The author considers the exquisite gifts of literature he has given the world. He looks back further to his wretched realisation that he would never become the great scientist of his dreams. The gain, the loss, the everything, the nothing, the art from science.


Somewhere, sometime, a small child reads this book and realises he must explain time. He becomes a great scientist. A great scientist who has been given the breadth of vision and imagination that is Lightman’s work of art. I keenly await the consequences.

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