Help From Einstein

– by Lee Smith, Ph.D.

Einstein was not simply a physicist. He offered wisdom for all seasons of life and existence. At one time the whole world looked to him for guidance, like an oracle. He said that his genius was to look in to things deeply and to see with an uncommon clarity untethered to what we think we know. Let’s have an annotated look at some of his wise equations to get some ideas about searching our own life’s dark matter.

“A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.” Women too! The difference between looking and thinking is the wisdom here. We can get quite caught up in thinking that things are a certain way because our own thinking seductively feels true. Thinking is undoubtedly a powerful and transformative ability, but we can get hijacked by it. A partial inventory of problematic types of thinking includes thinking that is self-critical, catastrophic, magical and superstitious, irrational, anxious, prejudiced, delusional, counterfactual, dysfunctional, ruminative and dogmatic. Instead, if we can remember to just stop and look and accept things as they are, we’re then better set up to work with what’s true. Lotteries would disappear.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Most disputes with a loved one are not resolved by more disputing. Usually what breaks a dispute is one person shifting and softening in some compassionate way, suddenly seeing the other person instead of clinging to their own rigid view. Thinking can keep us from foraging elsewhere. Recall that anxiety (future thinking) and depression (negative thinking) are epidemic.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Thanks for the diagnosis, Albert! Sometimes we think and think and think, going to absurd lengths to try to divine what someone is going to do or why they said a certain thing. And we keep on thinking, unsettled that we don’t know. Maybe if we realize that it’s true that we can’t know now, we can stress a little less.

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” If that was true in his time, what about today? Technology is now substantially managing our occupational, financial, social and emotional life. The tail might be wagging the dog.

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” This one feels like a big bag of groceries, a candy store. It recalls the sorry bumper sticker, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” What matters may not be what we expect, and what we expect may not be what matters. Opening up to look at your life as it actually is, with curiosity and interest, lets you tap in to intuition, feeling and a personal knowing that offers better guidance than any rational accounting of your life.

“Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.” We should be careful with fast fixes, pat answers (sorry to all Pats out there) and prescriptive advice. Oprah knows that weight loss is more complicated than any advice that her show can package.

“One may say the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” This is perhaps one of the most optimistic insights of all time. Somehow this universe gave rise to us and to our capacity to know this universe and ourselves. When your life seems incomprehensible, please know that it only seems that way. It might be that, by stopping and looking and accepting things just as they are, it gets a little clearer. When we “Ah ha!” we’re suddenly seeing something that’s true, and a little of the dark matter becomes instead something that we comfortably know.