Einstein on Classic Literature

Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.

There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium.

Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist’s snobbishness. 

*Written for the Jungkaufmann February 29, 1952 and included in Ideas and Opinions

 

Last summer I read C.S. Lewis and in his writing, he recommended alternating contemporary reading with the classics and it seems he is in good company.  Einstein believed there were “only a few enlightened people” in a century and their work is worth reading.

Regarding the Middle Ages, perhaps Einstein refers to the Greek thinkers of antiquity who helped bring an end to 500 years of ignorance.  Stoics like Epictetus come to mind  (link to letter Epictetus, Life is a Festival).

My 1954 copy of Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions has notes on the inside and back covers, something you won’t find with a shiny new edition and a treasure I found at the local book-swap. This collection is the most important of his general writing

Link to the book, Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions

Media content today is disturbing on many levels and it’s essential to think about what is important to you and choose your own content.  Sensationalism drives media ratings and the depravity of a lot of popular programming is motivation enough to unplug.  (Read more here Cherokee Folktale)

Read the writing of thinkers like Einstein or Epictetus and writers like Cervantes or Austen. (Read Austen, Train Your Brain).

Choose to hang out with the greats.

 

Jul 26, 2014

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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