March 25, 2008

Giving Back

"Everyday I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." Albert Einstein

I ran across this quotation today and thought, Wow, he sure took that self-talk seriously. Albert Einstein gave the world many things including his research in the photoelectric effect which scored him a Nobel Prize in Physics and led to our understanding of the quantum nature of light. Well, not exactly "our" understanding. I could read theories and principles of physics until I am calcified in the grave and it would still be gobbly-glop to me.

How lucky we are, though, to have the combined knowledge that mankind has passed down through the centuries---our concepts of science as well as mind, body and spirit---each generation building on the last. How lucky we are that we don't have to start from scratch every so many years to re-invent fire, wheels and Spanx's undergarments. But aside from Einstein, I wonder how many of us have ever thought about our responsibility to give back with the same measure as we've received. And would the "measure we've received" be the same for each of us? Should it be or could it be? I don't understand physics, for example, so I can't give back in terms of ground breaking scientific theories. No, it will be up to others to figure out if the earth is hurling off its axis and in danger of being sucked into a Black Hole---or does that only happen in sci-fi comic books?

But maybe for me, and others like me, it's enough to give back what we can in terms of the love, logic and sensitivity bred into civilized society one caring set of parents to their children at a time. Maybe it's enough for us to take care of our young and elderly, recycle cans, and save turtles from becoming road kill. We can't all be Albert Einstein. But some of us can be Leonard Bernstein's or Brad Pitt's or nameless, do-good people doing the best we can to give back the same measure as we've received. Maybe it's enough for ordinary minds to recognize and nurture the good in the world and ignore or fight back against the bad.

I guess this is all just another way of saying that each of us has talents or skills to add to the pot of soup cooking over the communal fire. Add what you can, when ever you can.

Jean Riva ©

Photo: Albert Einstein, Nobel Prize Photo, 1921

2 comments:

FLOOG said...

Wonderful post.

I have never agreed with the term 'Ordinary' or 'normal' when referring to people who are not famous.

I don't believe any human being is 'normal' or 'ordinary'. In fact I think everyone is special,and many are talented and gifted in all sorts of ways. I also think you're right, in so far as we ALL bring something to life's table

We do so need 'great' thinkers as well, those who push the boundaries of conventional wisdom and knowledge. Life is something of a soup, with a mix of many ingredients, all of which form the overall flavour.

the aphasia decoder.... said...

Floog, I know what you're saying. It's a slippery slope when we start putting certain people on pedestals. But on the other hand, how can we not take note of those who have made the most of their talents and gifts while others squander theirs?---and I agree, we all have them. While I was writing this essay I kept thinking...how does the person who was born without loving/caring parents fit in here? Is it not natural for them to give back in the same measure that they received be it evil or hate or lack of taking personal responsibility? How do we change that?