When Albert Einstein gave up

What is it about this sequence that is so powerful? You engage in an intense focus that is frustrated by the lack of a result, and then in exhaustion, even defeat, you give up . . . . 

. . . and answers come. How is that? Why is that? When a friend gave up recently, I felt the relief for her that I knew would soon be hers.

Here is Albert Einstein’s son-in-law Dmitri Marianoff relating a conversation with Einstein late one night, after the rest of the household had gone off to bed. It begins with Marianoff asking the question of the great physicist. 

“How is it, Albert, that you arrived at your theory?” 

“In a vision,” he answered. 

He said that one night he had gone to bed with a discouragement of such black depths that no argument would pierce it. “When one’s thought falls into despair, nothing serves him any longer, not his hours of work, not his past successes — nothing. All reassurance is gone. It is finished, I told myself, it is useless. There are no results. I must give it up.” 

Then this happened. With infinite precision the universe, with its underlying unity of size, structure, distance, time, space, slowly fell piece by piece, like a monolithic picture puzzle, into place in Albert Einstein’s mind. Suddenly clear, like a giant die that made an indelible impress, a huge map of the universe outlined itself in one clarified vision. 

And that is when peace came, and that is when conviction came, and with these things came an almighty calm that nothing could ever shake again . . . .

It was to take Einstein four more years before he codified into formula his great insight into matter and energy.

It gives one hope, doesn’t it — even despair can be a great catapult forward.


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