Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some of the best fun I have had in recent years of reading came in the two hours it took me to read this (including frantic back-tracks and hop-skips). Time is the hero of this collection and comes veiled in every twisted garb we can conceive, or rather, that Einstein can dream up. Einstein in his mad canter towards discovering the most revolutionary idea in science tumbles right down an imaginary wonderland in this book.
What comes out of the recesses of Einstein’s brooding on the nature of time and its relation to our lives is a montage of dreams that stretch our imagination to its limits. Time goes backwards, becomes personal, loops in on itself, slows down and speeds up according to your speeds and even stops altogether in his various dreams. But in the process we also see our own natures reflected in these bizarre behaviors that Einstein (or rather Lightman) subjects our protagonist to.
While each of the ‘worlds’ are immensely entertaining and thought-provoking, the real crux of the book comes out in the interludes, which are the only times we meet the dreamer – Einstein. The book is an exploration of the twists and turns of the creative process, of the blind alleys and the arcane notions, the tomfoolery and the Baudelaire circus contortions that the creative imagination has to be twisted to before a coherent idea emerges.
Of the dreams, numbering around thirty, some are particularly imaginative while others are variations on earlier themes. At first I was disappointed to encounter these variations and slight modifications, until I realized that Einstein, the dreamer/thinker, has to revisit ideas and try these mutations before he can proceed with them or discard them. Some of the ideas had to be short, some elaborate, some gripping, some boring and some outlandishly silly.
But through it all, the constant feeling, almost magical, of being part of this evolution of thought and of peering into the wildest musings (even if imagined) that led to the conception of time as we know today makes the book a treasure to be revisited and indulged in at every opportunity.
Did I mention that I read the book three times today?
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