When I was growing up I wanted more than anything to be a theoretical physicist. I was raised in a small town in Wisconsin, with a population of only a few thousand. We had't much in the way of resources, but our small public library did have biographies of Einstein available, biographies that I read from cover to cover. My high school physics teacher had a small collection of more advanced scientific works he leant me repeatedly, along with books of post secondary mathematics that I felt, whether rightly or wrongly, I learned more from during summer breaks than I did the rest of my academic year. He also leant me a large Celestron reflector telescope. I'd take that telescope with me outside the bounds of our small town, sometimes in bitter frigid mid winter cold, and study collections of nebula stars and planets for hours and hours, carrying a small pocket picture book of astronomy in my pocket, a book I'd thumb through to locate whatever that telescope and my location made it possible for me to find. The most peaceful experiences I have ever had in my life occurred when out in those telescopic fields, often ending with me stretched out in a lawn chair beneath the halo of the Milky Way. Those experiences are forever tangled up in my mind with the words and ideas of Einstein, along with others of his kind. In that lawn chair I'd lose myself in a bottomless well of stars, thinking about Einstein's notions, about eternity, about Spinoza, about the billions of years behind and before me, about those billions and billions of stars. Like most young people I had my fair share of difficult adolescent and teen times. I'd deal with them often by taking out that telescope, mulling over what I'd read, making my troubles feel so infinitely small against the backdrop of that ancient sky. They'd almost always evaporate, and I'd feel so incredibly whole, so at peace with everything in my life. I eventually gave up my boyhood dream of being a theoretical physicist. Lately I've been struggling with just what I want to do with the rest of my life, deeply dissatisfied with the small ephemeral box I feel I've stepped into somehow. Listening to your program made me weep over that lost boyhood sense of cosmic meaning, of cosmic access that Einstein so beautifully describes, that I once thrived on so many years ago now, in those telescopic fields of mine.
More information about text formats