Bookcover - Einsteins Dreams

Einsteins Dreams

by Alan Lightman

Rating: 9/10


This book is truly wonderful. A quick read, filled with extremely beautiful, almost poetry-like prose, and small short stories, about deeply human desires, fears and ideas, woven into small short stories about different universes, where time works completely different from how it does in ours.

The book is stimulating intellectually and heartwarming at the same time, a tough combo to find and I almost cried a few times while I was reading it on a hot summer afternoon in the Delhi Lodhi gardens.

I think the power of this book, comes from the fact, that even though those worlds seem dreamy and distant and oddly weird, we can see through those dreamy visions, and take away lessons into our real world, where time works nothing like that in the fictional worlds, and yet we can learn from them and their stories a great deal. Whether that's from the people, trying to freeze time, forget the past, or the future, or the present, or those who would like to speed time up and hasten through life, from all these little stories, we can learn small but powerful lessons about our - time.

There are no "real" book notes for this one, just a collection of quotes from it, little snippets and passages, that I enjoyed a lot and wanted to keep in one place:


If a person holds no ambitions in this world, he suffers unknowingly. If a person holds ambitions, he suffers knowingly, but very slowly.

In this world, the texture of time happens to be sticky. Portions of towns become stuck in some moment in history and do not get out. So, too, individual people become stuck in some point of their lives and do not get free.

The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone. For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present. Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.

A world without memory is a world of the present.

In this world, some people can see their future in visions, but only randomly and not always:

Who would fare better in this world of fitful time? Those who have seen the future and live only one life? Or those who have not seen the future and wait to live life? Or those who deny the future and live two lives?

Time is too precious. A life is a moment in season. A life is one snowfall. A life is one autumn day. A life is the delicate, rapid edge of a closing door's shadow. A life is a brief movement of arms and legs.

Suppose that people live forever. Strangely, the population of each city splits in two: the Laters and the Nows.

In a world without future, beyond the present lies nothingness, and people cling to the present as if hanging from a cliff.

In the duration of a thunderclap in one place, two people could fall in love in another place.

Here time moves differently, depending on physical location:

Just beyond a mountain, just beyond a river, lies a different life. Yet these lives do not speak to each other. These lives do not share. These lives do not nurture each other. The abundances caused by isolation are stifled by the same isolation.

Here the future is already known:

We do not know the rooms ahead, but we know we cannot change them. We are spectators of our lives.

He breathes the moist air and feels oddly free to do as he pleases, free in a world without freedom.

In this universe, time exists as flying nightingales that when captured, slow time to a halt, freezing at the moment, when it was caught:

The catchers delight in the moment so frozen but soon discover that the nightingale expires, its clear, flutelike song diminishes to silence, the trapped moment grows withered and without life.

He feels empty. He has no interest in reviewing patents or talking to Besso or thinking of Physics. He feels empty, and he stares without interest at the tiny black speck and the Alps.

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