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Reaction to Einstein's "The World as I See It"



The Einstein article, which is short, is here, among others. There seem to be numerous translations.

The Intersection of Traditional Religion and the Religious Man’s “Experience of Mystery”

 

Religion for me was kind of an afterthought. I was raised Catholic, and this was something different from just being Christian. The amazing thing is that Catholicism wasn’t really a set of ideas, as I remember it. The religious stuff was there, of course, but it was expressed in mostly boring, mildly positive words. What I remember is the amazing sense of ritual—that being Catholic meant regimentation and schedule. It meant doing everything the same way, time after time.

 

The priest only had to say that Jesus had said to Peter, “Go build my church,” once, and that was enough. A direct relationship to Jesus himself! Everything we did had such power. I remember getting to church early one time with my mom and brothers, and Father Kelly was performing the rosary in a spiritual chant, with a dozen or so white-haired widows following. This was an amazing scene for a ten-year-old.

 

The scary-looking icon of Jesus on the cross hung in front of us at every Mass. Religion was really about a sense of wonder, combined with fear, and a real repetition of the concept of authority, but kind of in a benign, benevolent way.

 

All of this created in me, in my current spirituality, a deep respect for the workings of good human beings—the promise that each of us holds. Einstein was really pushing this idea when he wrote, “But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people—first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent….[M]y inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead….” Wow, that really expresses what Catholicism meant for me. The majesty of the windows and the size of the churches are not materialistic; they’re meant to establish the smallness of the individual in comparison to the collective.

 

I would no longer describe myself as Catholic, but may I keep that sense of smallness when I think of the contribution of people across the world and across time. May I try to make my contribution, small as it is, and when I be praised, to have the humility that Einstein did: to say of admiration that this is through “no fault, and no merit, of my own.”

 

Not long ago, I went to a local Catholic church; the message didn’t reach me, but the devotion—and diversity—of the people did.
 
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