Einstein and Me, volume two: I must go to the piano and play!
In an article I wrote this past spring entitled “Einstein and Me” I gave this quote I had copied down years ago onto a “thought card” (a 3 x 5 index card) that I kept with me for inspiration:
“Every man knows that in his work he does best and accomplishes most when he has attained a proficiency that enables him to work intuitively. That is, there are things that we come to know so well that we do not know how we know them. Perhaps we live best and do things best when we are not too conscious of how and why we do them.”
So why am I always discovering quotes by the great thinker and scientist that inspire me? I don’t know, but recently at a time when my inspiration and stamina for my music work has been flagging due to the isolated nature of my life and difficulty in publishing my work, I was reading from a book I took off my library shelf that I must have acquired in the 1980’s; this is perhaps where this quote originated. And again I find appropriate words and inspiration from his life that seem to illuminate my personal situation in particular, even though these words were written as long ago as the 1930’s.
The book I was reading is a book of “New Thought Christianity” that was new way back then in that long ago depression era decade, which is yet apropos today, entitled: “The Twelve Powers of Man” by Charles Fillmore, published by Unity Books, Unity Village, MO. One evening a week ago or so, I just “happened” to open it the very chapter where the author quotes Albert Einstein’s views on his work and life as he got older. Of course, if like me, and the author of this book, you DO NOT believe in accidents, which I don’t, then the organizing power of the “super-conscious” mind is ever at work bringing into our lives, exactly the guidance and substance we need. Well, so goes the gist of the philosophy of this little book and the ensuing views I will paraphrase here in this article.
“Professor Einstein spoke in an article paraphrased in “The Twelve Powers of Man” at great extent on how “intuition” figured in his work, and his belief that the ability to work using intuition as a guide can be acquired in any walk of life by anyone who does so by prolonged effort and reflection, and by resuming application of continued efforts after failures. It does not come to those of weak will or half-hearted efforts; Einstein made the case that no person knows anything until he knows his art or craft in a thorough instinctive way.
People frequently asked Einstein whether, as a scientist, he believed in God. His usual answer: “I do not believe in a God who maliciously and arbitrarily interferes in the personal affairs of mankind. My religion consists of a humble admiration for the vast power which manifests itself in that small part of the Universe that our poor, weak minds can grasp.”
At one time after prolonged concentration on a problem for nearly four years the professor suffered a nearly complete physical collapse. With it came severe stomach troubles and pain. A celebrated specialist advised him, “You must not get out of bed!” The usual routine of physical inactivity was given as a prescription.
“Do you think this is the will of God?” asked the Professor of the doctor in turn. “I think not; the voice of God is from within us. Something within me, tells me that I must get up at least once a day. I must go to the piano and play! (Boldface is mine!) The rest of the day I may spend in bed. Only this I am prepared to accept as the will of God!”
And so the specialist had to concede to “Einstein’s will,” the will of God as set forth by Einstein in this case. Every day the Professor got up, put his bathrobe over his nightshirt, and “went to the piano to play.”
Those of you who know this writer, Michael Guy, author and musician, know why I would choose to make such a big deal out of Einstein’s advice. I pass along these quotes from this long ago magazine interview. I felt it imperative to myself as well as my author friends who know of my beleaguered quest in music composition and piano, to rephrase this expansive genius scientist'’s views. Besides, it’s well known that Professor Einstein, as he liked to be called, did play the violin, if not the piano. He used the allegory of “going to the piano each day” in the way any creative thinker would in approaching his great creative work. Unlike other scientific geniuses of that 20th century era, whose discoveries may be as remarkable, he had an artist’s “right-brained” sensitivity and aesthetic. This allowed him to appreciate the “spiritual” dimension of life, without requiring the same calculated proof that was needed in his physics work.
In that long ago article, Einstein gave some advice that may still be useful to us writers and a few of us composers: "Much reading after a certain age," he says, "diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as a man that spends too much time in the theaters is apt to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life."
I simply add today that it implies just as well to anyone who watches too much TV, or spends too much time surfing the internet. At this juncture, reading may not be so bad a habit today, if what one reads is not just "mind numbing fill." And certainly, any time invested in “truly” listening to good instrumental music (not the latest 60 second sound byte) is time invested in expanding your creative, right-brained powers.
Einstein mentioned two other important simple rules he followed:
“I have only two rules I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.”
Pretty sage advice from Professor Einstein which is still applicable today. Now, as I’ve been attempting to do for many years without the support of “the industry,” I must put in my four hours. In the words of that esteemed scientist/thinker/musician: "I must go to the piano and play!"