Einstein’s Dreams

Einstein’s Dreams is a poetic collection of dreams about time. Alan Lightman, being a physicist himself, roots the stories in real physicist theories, which adds another layer of interest for the readers.

With his simple and playful style of writing, Lightman’s stories read very much like fables. One of the common themes that I find in many of the dreams is the notion of being free verses being trapped by time.

In the June 22 entry, the future is fixed and cannot be changed no matter what you do. People have become mere spectators of their own lives. Say if someone lives in such a world where time is rigid and “life is an infinite corridor of rooms, one room lit at each moment, the next room dark but prepared”, how would they know that the future is fixed or not? With the room ahead of them being dark until they enter it, how would they know if anything they do can change things in the room? The notion of a fixed future or of a predetermined fate, might just be a cultural construct in their world, like a 24-hour clock system in ours. Even without challenging this particular perception, one can still choose to be enslaved by it, like the school boys who take no interest in their future lives, or be freed by it, like chemist who decides to live in the moment and do what he pleases.

While the June 22 dream plays with the notion of a fixed future, the June 27 entry is about a world with shifting past. Again, if we live in such a world (we might already do), how would we know “that the past is not as solid as this instant?” Limited by our own perception, we may never really know if our future is fixed, or if our past is fluid. We may never be able to truly comprehend, not on a scientific level, but on a personal basis, how time and space works. This limitation gives us the freedom to choose our own truth, construct our own view and how we want to perceive everything. All we have is the time and space we are in at the moment and we can decide how we want to experience it. Even in the June 28 dream, where time is a flock of birds that can theoretically be trapped, no one can really escape time. The trapped moment soon “grows withered and without life.”


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