I have always been fascinated by debates on the differences between objectivity and subjectivity; art and science; East and West; X and Y. The truth normally lies somewhere in between.
85 years ago two great minds met in Berlin and debated such issues in what must be one of the most interesting thought pieces in the history of the twentieth century.
THE NATURE OF REALITY
Albert Einstein in Conversation with Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore visited Einstein’s house in Caputh, near Berlin, on July 14, 1930. The discussion between the two great men was recorded, and was subsequently published in the January, 1931 issue of Modern Review.
TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics, the two ancient entities, time and space, while I have been lecturing in this country on the eternal world of man, the universe of reality.
EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?
TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of man comprehends the universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the truth of the universe is human truth.
EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe—the world as a unity dependent on humanity, and the world as reality independent of the human factor.
TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with man, the eternal, we know it as truth, we feel it as beauty.
EINSTEIN: This is a purely human conception of the universe.
TAGORE: The world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of the eternal man whose experiences are made possible through our experiences.
EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.
TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realize the supreme man, who has no individual limitations, through our limitations. Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes these truths and links them up with our deeper needs. Our individual consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to truth, and we know truth as good through our harmony with it.
EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?
TAGORE: No, I do not say so.
EINSTEIN: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?
EINSTEIN: I agree with this conception of beauty, but not with regard to truth.
TAGORE: Why not? Truth is realized through men.
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is my religion.
TAGORE: Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony, which is in the universal being; truth is the perfect comprehension of the universal mind. We individuals approach it through our own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experience, through our illumined consciousness. How otherwise can we know truth?
EINSTEIN: I cannot prove, but I believe in the Pythagorean argument, that the truth is independent of human beings. It is the problem of the logic of continuity.
TAGORE: Truth, which is one with the universal being, must be essentially human; otherwise, whatever we individuals realize as true, never can be called truth. At least, the truth which is described as scientific and which only can be reached through the process of logic—in other words, by an organ of thought which is human. According to the Indian philosophy there is Brahman, the absolute truth, which cannot be conceived by the isolation of the individual mind or described by words, but can be realized only by merging the individual in its infinity. But such a truth cannot belong to science. The nature of truth which we are discussing is an appearance; that is to say, what appears to be true to the human mind, and therefore is human, and may be called maya, or illusion.
EINSTEIN: It is no illusion of the individual, but of the species.
TAGORE: The species also belongs to a unity, to humanity. Therefore the entire human mind realizes truth; the Indian and the European mind meet in a common realization.
EINSTEIN: The word species is used in German for all human beings; as a matter of fact, even the apes and the frogs would belong to it. The problem is whether truth is independent of our consciousness.
TAGORE: What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of which belong to the superpersonal man.
EINSTEIN: We do things with our mind, even in our everyday life, for which we are not responsible. The mind acknowledges realities outside of it, independent of it. For instance, nobody may be in this house, yet that table remains where it is.
TAGORE: Yes, it remains outside the individual mind, but not the universal mind. The table is that which is perceptible by some kind of consciousness we possess.
EINSTEIN: If nobody were in the house the table would exist all the same, but this is already illegitimate from your point of view, because we cannot explain what it means, that the table is there, independently of us. Our natural point of view in regard to the existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack—not even primitive beings. We attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity. It is indispensable for us—this reality which is independent of our existence and our experience and our mind—though we cannot say what it means.
TAGORE: In any case, if there be any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing.
EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!
TAGORE: My religion is in the reconciliation of the superpersonal man, the universal spirit, in my own individual being.
The Creator gathered all of creation and said,
“I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it.
It is the realisation that they create their own reality.”
The eagle said, “Give it to me, I will take it to the moon.”
The Creator said, “No. One day they will go there and find it.”
The salmon said, “I will hid it on the bottom of the ocean floor.”
“No. They will go there too.”
The buffalo said, “I will bury it on the great plains.”
The Creator said, “They will cut the skin of the earth and find it even there.” ….
Then Grandmother Mole…. who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes,
said, “Put it inside them” [for that is the last place they will look.]
The Creator said, “it is done.”
An old Sioux Indian Fable from “Somebody Should Have Told Us! (Simple Truths for Living Well) by Jack Pransky
I met up recently with an old friend. She has decided to give up work in March. The hospital she has worked in for many years as a family therapist was transferred from the private sector to the public sector last year. She is giving up because the (UK) National Health Service (or NHS) that has now taken over the hospital has made the unit a “national asset” and patients are being referred to it from across the country. She can no longer practice as she used to because the patients are disconnected from the families that should support them when they leave hospital care. Costs have also gone up because of the additional remote support that need to be given to both patients and their supporting families. In addition, she finds the extra “meetings about meetings” and paperwork completely stifling.
It reminded of a similar problem that is embedded within the UK prison system. It has been proven that offenders are much more likely not to reoffend once they leave prison if they get family support during their term inside. Yet most prisoners are deliberately sent to another part of the country to do their time. Families (often poorer than most) cannot afford regular visits. So the likelihood of prisoners reoffending when leaving prison goes up.
In each of these cases, I suppose the patient or the prisoner could be seen as the “customer”. Yet these two state-run systems have been designed without the customer’s requirements (or real needs) in mind. They have been designed at the expense of other measures (such as top-down political targets, reduction in costs etc.)
The current business fads of rationalisation, outsourcing, off-shoring, cost-cutting and factory call-centres seem to have driven traditional sane local business practices and have allowed madness to prevail.
I can’t prove it, but I believe that local, common-sense sanity has to create more flexible, cost effective public services over the prevalent national (or international) managing-by-abstract-measures madness. But that is a very difficult case to prove when big egos, big technology, big politics and big finance have each, in their own way, presented measurement madness as the new religion.
Maybe measurement is, itself, the root cause of the problem. Maybe we should be suggesting a new way to educate the cohorts of ignorant managers and measurers.
Taiichi Ohno would have thought so. One of his great quotes fits well here:
“People who can’t understand numbers are useless.
The gemba (or real place) where numbers are not visible is also bad.
However, people who only look at the numbers are the worst of all.”
What if challenges come into your life at the same rate as the aptitude you have to tackle them?
Think of the games you play. They are most enjoyable when you play people who have roughly your own level of skill. Playing with those that are much better or much worse is either frustrating or tedious.
Think of the workplace. We all like to be challenged just enough to better our game – but not so much that we give up and become despondent.
– You come unstuck when you try to tackle challenges that are way beyond you.
– You have a limited patience threshold for things that do not challenge you.
Dan Pink articulated the three most important thing to motivate people in the workplace: Autonomy, MASTERY and Purpose.
Mastery is all about taking on new challenges that stretch you – but don’t stretch you so much that you lose the plot or lose the game so often that you give up.
Maybe life’s a game where every challenge we face has just the right amount of challenge to keep us improving?
Makes you think the next time you face a challenge that seems impossible. Go for it! It might not be as difficult as you first thought.
I was recently sent this quote:
“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.
I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”
It was attributed to Meryl Streep. On a bit of further research, it appeared that the original quote was not by Meryl Streep at all – but by a Portuguese self-help author/life coach José Micard Teixeira.
The research (and subsequent discovery of a mis-attribution) reminded me of another quote, supposedly by Einstein:
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
No one has found evidence that Einstein was the source.
And so it is. There are great quotes and famous people. Many times, famous people say great things. But with the internet, great quotes can go viral – particularly when attributed to a famous person who is likely to have said it.
Makes you think. The power of great thoughts that go viral by being mis-attributed to famous people might actually be a good thing – particularly if they spread those great thoughts further than if they were attributed to a Portuguese self-help author that no one has heard of.
Famous people come and go. But great quotes and great thoughts live on forever. Even before the Internet, how many great quotes remain in current parlance having been written by the famous Anon E. Mouse!
After the feeling of being stuck. Of being bogged-down. Of going round and round in circles, the thought changes. What if round-and-round gets you somewhere?
Life flows. Events line up. Coincidences happen without any effort. Dreams start to crystalise in elegant ways that you had not expected. You deepen your ideas on where you are. Present. Alert. Observant.
Life speeds up. The pace of change shifts from first gear to fourth – apparently without going second or third. Patterns emerge that you have been working on for months – or even years. Life becomes effortless.
You give up control, because otherwise those tiny rituals that were once so important will stop you from riding the wave. You surrender to the Universal stream of Life.
Then things go quiet. The entry into the centre of the vortex creates an intense sense of peace. You are in the eye in the storm.
All is clear. All is aligned. You can make choices that you’ve never seen before.
Play with the energy. Feel the power and use it for the good of yourself and your community. Point the axis to where you want to go. New openings will appear. New guides will arrive to help you on your new path.
You are not just in the vortex. You are the vortex!
All images from Crestock.
Sometimes you get stuck. You can’t think of a way out.
Well, it’s not the first time! Mankind has a long history of innovation.
This video explains it beautifully – and gives us seven questions to ask when you get stuck:
Go on! Try it! Ask the seven questions:
1. What can we imagine?
2. What can we look at differently?
3. What can we use differently?
4. What can we move?
5. What can we interconnect?
6. What can we alter?
7. What can we make?
That’s all very well if you are a guy (like me) and trying to fix things to make things better. But what about the emotional side of the equation? Jason Headley has another (perhaps much more brilliant video) which should amuse those that find communication skills between the sexes more challenging:
Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague. We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us. Conversation flowed. Ideas bubbled to the surface. Creative spirit abounded.
During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition. I had forgotten this – but it is something I have recently become very interested in. In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart. I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.
And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:
I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals. It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.
Sit back and enjoy!