Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Night I Met Einstein

by Jerome Weidman

When I was a very young man, just beginning to make my way, I was invited to dine at the home of a distinguished New York philanthropist. After dinner our hostess led us to an enormous drawing room. Other guests were pouring in, and my eyes beheld two unnerving sights: servants were arranging small gilt chairs in long, neat rows; and up front, leaning against the wall, were musical instruments. Apparently I was in for an evening of Chamber music.

I use the phrase “in for” because music meant nothing to me. I am almost tone deaf. Only with great effort can I carry the simplest tune, and serious music was to me no more than an arrangement of noises. So I did what I always did when trapped: I sat down and when the music started I fixed my face in what I hoped was an expression of intelligent appreciation, closed my ears from the inside and submerged myself in my own completely irrelevant thoughts.

After a while, becoming aware that the people around me were applauding, I concluded it was safe to unplug my ears. At once I heard a gentle but surprisingly penetrating voice on my right.

“You are fond of Bach?” the voice said.

I knew as much about Bach as I know about nuclear fission. But I did know one of the most famous faces in the world, with the renowned shock of untidy white hair and the ever-present pipe between the teeth. I was sitting next to Albert Einstein.

“Well,” I said uncomfortably, and hesitated. I had been asked a casual question. All I had to do was be I equally casual in my reply. But I could see from the look in my neighbor’s extraordinary eyes that their owner was not merely going through the perfunctory duties of elementary politeness. Regardless of what value I placed on my part in the verbal exchange, to this man his part in it mattered very much. Above all, I could feel that this was a man to whom you did not tell a lie, however small.

“I don’t know anything about Bach,” I said awkwardly. “I’ve never heard any of his music.”

A look of perplexed astonishment washed across Einstein’s mobile face.

“You have never heard Bach?”

He made it sound as though I had said I’d never taken a bath.

“It isn’t that I don’t want to like Bach,” I replied hastily. “It’s just that I’m tone deaf, or almost tone deaf, and I’ve never really heard anybody’s music.”

A look of concern came into the old man’s face. “Please,” he said abruptly, “You will come with me?”

He stood up and took my arm. I stood up. As he led me across that crowded room I kept my embarrassed glance fixed on the carpet. A rising murmur of puzzled speculation followed us out into the hall. Einstein paid no attention to it.

Resolutely he led me upstairs. He obviously knew the house well. On the floor above he opened the door into a book-lined study, drew me in and shut the door.

“Now,” he said with a small, troubled smile. “You will tell me, please, how long you have felt this way about music?”

“All my life,” I said, feeling awful. “I wish you would go back downstairs and listen, Dr. Einstein. The fact that I don’t enjoy it doesn’t matter.”

He shook his head and scowled, as though I had introduced an irrelevance.

“Tell me, please,” he said. “Is there any kind of music that you do like?”

“Well,” I answered, “I like songs that have words, and the kind of music where I can follow the tune.”

He smiled and nodded, obviously pleased. “You can give me an example, perhaps?”

“Well,” I ventured, “almost anything by Bing Crosby.”

He nodded again, briskly. “Good!”

He went to a corner of the room, opened a phonograph and started pulling out records. I watched him uneasily. At last he beamed. “Ah!” he said.

He put the record on and in a moment the study was filled with the relaxed, lilting strains of Bing Crosby’s “When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day.” Einstein beamed at me and kept time with the stem of his pipe. After three or four phrases he stopped the phonograph.

“Now,” he said. “Will you tell me, please, what you have just heard?”

The simplest answer seemed to be to sing the lines. I did just that, trying desperately to stay on tune and keep my voice from cracking. The expression on Einstein’s face was like the sunrise.

“You see!” he cried with delight when I finished. “You do have an ear!”

I mumbled something about this being one of my favorite songs, something I had heard hundreds of times, so that it didn’t really prove anything.

“Nonsense!” said Einstein. “It proves everything! Do you remember your first arithmetic lesson in school? Suppose, at your very first contact with numbers, your teacher had ordered you to work out a problem in, say, long division or fractions. Could you have done so?”

“No, of course not.”

“Precisely!” Einstein made a triumphant wave with his pipestem. “It would have been impossible and you would have reacted in panic. You would have closed your mind to long division and fractions. As a result, because of that one small mistake by your teacher, it is possible your whole life you would be denied the beauty of long division and fractions.”

The pipestem went up and out in another wave.

“But on your first day no teacher would be so foolish. He would start you with elementary things – then, when you had acquired skill with the simplest problems, he would lead you up to long division and to fractions.”

“So it is with music.” Einstein picked up the Bing Crosby record. “This simple, charming little song is like simple addition or subtraction. You have mastered it. Now we go on to something more complicated.”

He found another record and set it going. The golden voice of John McCormack singing “The Trumpeter” filled the room. After a few lines Einstein stopped the record.

“So!” he said. “You will sing that back to me, please?”

I did – with a good deal of self-consciousness but with, for me, a surprising degree of accuracy. Einstein stared at me with a look on his face that I had seen only once before in my life: on the face of my father as he listened to me deliver the valedictory address at my high school graduation.

“Excellent!” Einstein remarked when I finished. “Wonderful! Now this!”

“This” proved to be Caruso in what was to me a completely unrecognizable fragment from “Cavalleria Rusticana.” Nevertheless, I managed to reproduce an approximation of the sounds the famous tenor had made. Einstein beamed his approval.

Caruso was followed by at least a dozen others. I could not shake my feeling of awe over the way this great man, into whose company I had been thrown by chance, was completely preoccupied by what we were doing, as though I were his sole concern.

We came at last to recordings of music without words, which I was instructed to reproduce by humming. When I reached for a high note, Einstein’s mouth opened and his head went back as if to help me attain what seemed unattainable. Evidently I came close enough, for he suddenly turned off the phonograph.

“Now, young man,” he said, putting his arm through mine. “We are ready for Bach!”

As we returned to our seats in the drawing room, the players were tuning up for a new selection. Einstein smiled and gave me a reassuring pat on the knee.

“Just allow yourself to listen,” he whispered. “That is all.”

It wasn’t really all, of course. Without the effort he had just poured out for a total stranger I would never have heard, as I did that night for the first time in my life, Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze.” I have heard it many times since. I don’t think I shall ever tire of it. Because I never listen to it alone. I am sitting beside a small, round man with a shock of untidy white hair, a dead pipe clamped between his teeth, and eyes that contain in their extraordinary warmth all the wonder of the world.

When the concert was finished I added my genuine applause to that of the others.

Suddenly our hostess confronted us. “I’m so sorry, Dr. Einstein,” she said with an icy glare at me, “that you missed so much of the performance.”

Einstein and I came hastily to our feet. “I am sorry, too,” he said. “My young friend here and I, however, were engaged in the greatest activity of which man is capable.”

She looked puzzled. “Really?” she said. “And what is that?”

Einstein smiled and put his arm across my shoulders. And he uttered ten words that – for at least one person who is in his endless debt – are his epitaph:

“Opening up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty.”

(This story is from Jerome Weidman, with no known copyright info. Thanks to Akshar Smriti for posting it. It is reposted here with updated formatting.)

Are You Awake?

by Michelle Maynard Koenig

“When the time comes, you are awakened as if from a dream. You understand that what you have found is your own and does not come from anywhere outside.” ~Buddhist Sutra

I am awake.

After several decades of existing day in and day out, following her expectation, his expectation, their expectation, everyone’s expectation except my own, I woke up. I look back upon those years and it seems as if I was napping in a dream state. Sort of like twilight sleep. I had the sense of what was going on around me, but didn’t have spark to light my purpose, to manifest the crazy-beautiful work of wonders my presence could manifest.  Sadly, in that twilight state, I remained firmly curled up in a suffocating world of comfort and safety.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be said for feeling safe and secure. One of my favorite places is wrapped in the strong, loving arms of my husband. But to my benefit, as much as I would like to stay there indefinitely, his unselfish love for me encourages and challenges me to venture life, to explore the unknown, step outside of my comfort zone and just be … BE. Existing in this magnanimous life filled with ups and downs, light and dark, love and hate, joys and sadness, entices many to play it safe, to maintain the status quo, to accept that, well, this is basically as good as it’s going to get.

Fortunately, I am now aware of what works for me, what I need to do or not do. You know, the kind of work that a lot of us avoid: i.e. self-questioning/inquiry, moving with change, and the hardest of hard: the letting go. However, when existing in life no longer works, and you have no other option than to give up and die, look and explore deeper within. You may be surprised to find a gazillion reasons why playing it safe no longer is an option, but embracing life and living is.

My experience has been that unless I fully connect with my truth, how am I able to connect with world, the universe, with honesty, integrity and respect? I know! I know! Words are easier said than done. But I can promise you I have been at some very dark, low points. When I “woke” up from napping through life, I had an adamant determination to do “the work” and keeping doing the work indefinitely to bring about an abundance of awesomeness not only for myself, but for the world around me. Tapping into the source within has strengthened me with the audacity to embrace life and BE.

It has taken me 40 years to find that kind of serene-mojo after napping through life.  Now, I tune in life’s dial to “I’m so freakin’ ready to receive” and the focus switch to “you go girl, you can do ANYTHING!”

I’m Amazed

by Michelle Maynard Koenig

All life amazes me.

Albeit a wild flower growing in the brush,

cicadas singing in the evening,

a mare nurturing her foal,

the strength of a tree,

waves dancing on the ocean,

sunbeams warming my skin,

vibrant red tomatoes,

a snowflake’s intricate shape,

stars lighting the night sky,

you,

me,

everyone,

and everything.

Yes, I’m easily amazed.

Light From Within

by Michelle Maynard Koenig


For years and years
hidden beneath
fear
anger
shame
and expectations of others
was a beautiful soul
yearning for its beams of essence
to break though the barriers
that attempted to extinguish
its loving light
fortunately love proved to be
more powerful than hate

The Breath of Truth

by Michelle Maynard Koenig


Being true

Being “real”

Gives me a

Surreal feeling

Of freedom

Freedom to expand

My soul’s lungs

Breathe it all in

And exhale in love

My gratitude is indescribable

My life is a sacred gift

It is well with my Soul

(Artwork, “It Is Well With My Soul,” by Janelle Bradshaw.)

Masterpiece Continuum

by Michelle Maynard Koenig

As Everlast sings
♫ … I’ve been up
And I’ve been down
And I’ve been fast
And I’ve been slow
And I’ve been square
And I’ve been round
And I’ve been high
And I’ve been low
And I’ve been cool
And I’ve been calm
And I’ve been kind
And I’ve been crass … ♫
I  sing,
♫… My life changes,
My life evolves,
My life,
A masterpiece continuum …♫

 

 

Art Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com.)

Four Green Steps Presents Unsolicited Acts of Kindness Week

Mont- Royal, Canada (PRWEB) August 08, 2012

 

Social enterprise organization, Four Green Steps, will kick off the company’s first ever “Unsolicited Acts of Kindness Week” beginning on Monday, August 13th, 2012. For every person who pledges to perform an unsolicited act of kindness during Kindness Week, Four Green Steps will plant a tree.

During this week the company encourages everyone to ‘Choose Kindness’ and offer small gestures of kindness to those around them, whether it be by surprising a loved one with breakfast, holding the door open for a stranger, or any other kind gesture that is nice for the sake of being nice.

The week is to promote awareness of how the way we treat each other affects our social environment,” said President of Four Green Steps Jaye Yarrow.

Because Four Green Steps’ mission is to improve the environment by promoting sustainable, eco-friendly and fair trade practices, this week will promote people to reflect on how we treat one another affects the environment we live in as much as anything else.

“It’s about the feelings associated with altruism and kindness,” Yarrow said.

To celebrate Kindness Week, Four Green Steps will be presenting themselves door to door to the neighboring offices in their building and collect anything anyone wants to get rid of to donate to Renaissance, a local non-profit organization that collects and repairs used goods.

“We believe that taking the initiative to show more kindness to those immediately around us will spur positive energy as one kind act deserves another,” Yarrow said. “When there is a greater sense of well-being in the community, people are likely to feel more compassionate towards not just each other, but to their whole environment and everything in it.”

Four Green Steps encourages their Twitter followers to participate in Kindness Week by using the hashtag #kindnessweek or #nicetobenice when they have an inspired thought brought out by the week or simply want to share some of the kind deeds they’ve done to encourage and inspire others. Users can also follow Four Green Steps on Twitter (@FourGreenSteps).

Four Green Steps will also be randomly searching through Twitter for anyone who might be having a tough day and see what they can do to cheer them up.

About Four Green Steps: 
Four Green Steps is a social enterprise organization whose mission is to make ‘going green’ as easy and accessible as possible through the 4 steps they have developed: the largest Eco Friendly product Marketplace in the world, an Infozone publishing the latest environmental news, a Community section for sharing healthy tips and recipes, and School Programs that provide free green curriculum. They constantly provide up-to-date information about environmental topics and offer a unique environmental curriculum for schools worldwide that is used by 2 million students in over 55 countries. They host and sponsor international school competitions every year and offer free environmental lesson plans for kindergarten through grade 12 in English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Arabic. The company sells more than 50,000 eco-friendly products such as jewelry, organic baby products, bags and wallets, pet products, furniture, hot water tanks and beauty and wellness products. For more information please visit; http://www.fourgreensteps.com or call 1-888-604-7837.