April 30 – Wisdom from Einstein

“I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.” (Albert Einstein)

Many believe that Albert Einstein is one of the most intelligent geniuses ever to live. His scientific discoveries and theories are still being studied and fully understood over a half century after his death. In addition to his enormously complex and intricate theories in physics, Einstein also possessed an ability to spin folksy, philosophical takes on life as well.

The future really does come soon enough, of that I am fully and sometimes painfully aware. Events that seem distant in the future have a way of creeping up much faster than I would like. Then once they arrive, they seem to be gone in an instant. Summer vacations that are planned and anticipated months in advance, far too quickly often become specks in the rearview mirror. My retirement, which seemed an eon in the future when I graduated from College, is now a mere decade away, and approaching like a freight train. The seeming eternity between my children’s births and adulthood have gone by with surprising speed, making me wax nostalgic.

I remember when I was a child the distance from one Christmas to the next seemed impossibly long. As I have grown older, I can’t believe how fast the seasons change and march from one year to the next. I have sometimes called this a form of the theory of relativity. When you are 6 years old, the distance from one Christmas to the next is almost 17% of your total life, and probably more like 25% of the life you can remember. When you are 50, that distance between the holidays has shrunken to 2% of your life, and is getting ever smaller. I believe that we perceive the passing of time differently as we age because of this relativity. That’s why we remember “endless days in the sun” from our youth. At those young ages the days really did seem to be longer.

As I have progressed through my adult years I have tried to savor the days. Last year I wrote about the notion of making every day special, and making every day matter in my life. As I have aged I realize there are no throw away days, that all of them are special and a gift.

I am not sure I will ever get to the point that Einstein did, where he could stop thinking about the future. To me there is always a need to have at least part of one eye fixed on what is coming in order to be prepared. Whether it is saving for retirement, creating gifts lists, making vacation reservations, or planning for big events, there is always something coming for which some preparation is needed. I think for me I would change one word in this quote. I would change the word “think” to “worry”. I really do think that there isn’t much to be gained in life when it comes to worrying about the future. To me, worry is an idle, life sapping, energy draining, useless activity. When I waste time, effort and brain cells on worry, I do nothing good for myself or those around me. In fact, worrying has harmful effects on me physically and psychologically and can have damaging effects on my relationships.

I can see, though, that time spent thinking about the future does take away from enjoying the present. For that matter, ruminating on the events of the past have the same effect. As I said, I will never get to the state of perfectly living in the present, but anything that reduces the worry about the future, and the regrets of the past, saves that energy to enjoy today!

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