Episode #100
Original Airdate: 1 April 2021
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Length: 24 minutes

A celebration of sorts… where I give some thanks to a handful of friends and brainstorm pals for their support over the past 2.5 years.

I posed this question to these members of my de facto board of advisors:  why does the Weather of the Mind podcast resonate with you?

Insightful and encouraging answers abound.

 

 

Episode # 099
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Original Airdate: 16 March 2021
Length: 22 minutes

Weather of the Mind #99 notes

Einstein – Biography Review 3.16.21

In this pod I aim to provide a bit of a book review for Walter Isaacson’s Einstein.

My 3rd Isaacson bio and he is a biographer that focuses on innovation. The cultural process and these transformative figures he chronicles… including Da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Einstein.

He tells a good story and you get a sense for both the person and the cultural milieu in which they find themselves.  This is all can ask for in a bio.  And Isaacson succeeds in these every time.  Surely there are always questions remaining, but to boil a complex and transformative life into 500 pages is actually pretty difficult. In this sense, I think Isaacson has a good sense of pacing, of density.  How far to explore a point before it is time to move on.

If he has a weakness, it is the interpersonal complexity of families.  For example, Einstein’s son was near suicidal and in an institution for many years, and this was hardly explored in this book.   But again, a biographer has their lens which they tell the story.  And in terms of a general storytelling and a sense of the time and place, Isaacson does well.

Why I encourage the reading of biographies

Biographies are inherently intimate.  They provide an access to another, to this story of this fascinating character.  This true story.  You get to hear about what they were like as kids.  And how they evolved and how they remained the same.  How they thrived and where they failed.  How were they among family and friends?  How were they in the public space?

But there is so much more…  insight into the culture of the time.  Things you would never know to look for you are bound to discover.

As Isaacson says in his early pages, “his fascinating story, a testament to connection between creativity and freedom, reflects the triumphs and tumults of the modern era.”

“Imaginative noncomformity was in the air: Picasso, Joyce, Freud, Stravinsky, Shoenberg….” – Isaacson

But the biography is the canvas of someone’s life… and we all have a canvas

So without further ado, let me share some quotes from the book that elucidate a few main themes of the book.  I hope that this allows a better insight into Einstein, but also I hope they entice you to pick up a biography.

Music

Encouragement

Personality

Mystery  (perhaps befriending the mystery)

Music 

Mom an accomplished pianist; pushed violin lessons for young Albert;  he would go on to love the violin and was a part of his character throughout his life, he loved to play for others and for himself

“Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or faced a difficult challenge in his work, he would take refuge in music and it solved all his difficulties.” – son, Hans Albert

Mozart his favorite

“Music, nature and god became intermingled in him in a complex of feeling, a moral unity, the trace of which never vanished.” -biographer Moszowski

 

Encouragement –   feeding the gifts, the curiosity

Dad and his uncle were engineering minded problem solvers who did a lot of studies in electricity, the exciting new phenomena of the time.  (Electricity was like the internet or the cell phone of the 1880s.

At age 5 his epiphany and no image ripples out in a biography like this one does.  It would still ripple through him on his death bead 75 years later.   His Dad gave him a compass.  And the fact that it would respond to an invisible magnetic field just blew him away.  And lit a fascinating with fields… the last 30 years of life devoted to unified field theory.  That would aim to unify electrodynamic field and the gravity fields.

And a local med student.  Einsteins are jewish, though not religious, but one of the customs was to have guests over for dinner once a week for shabbat.  But they did it on wed or Thursday night and a med student came over for a few years.  Well this med student, along with his uncle, fed albert math puzzles and basically kept on feeding him until he was through calculus at age 12.

**So here is an example of a small anecdote that had potency.  A ritual where you have guests from your community over for a meal once a week.   Especially a family taking in an individual.  Now I might not have thought about this, if it was not for wandering through a personal story, a biography, that passes through the 1880s and 1890s …

 

Personality

“He was generally a loner, a tendency he claimed to cherish throughout his life, although his was a special sort of detachment that was interwoven with a relish for camaraderie and intellectual companionship.” – Isaacson

Summary of his defining character traits:  Incredible ability to systematize…. Low ability empath

“For all his kindness, sociability, and love of humanity, he was nevertheless totally detached from his environment and the human beings in it.” -Max Born

“the mix of coolness and warmth produced in Einstein a wry detachment as he floated through the human aspects of the world.” – Isaacson

Rebel spirit, questioning authority as default vantage.  “to punish me for my contempt of authority, fate has made me an authority myself.”

Quick trivia section… 1905 annus mirabilis, 1919 spec relativity tested and proven, 1922 nobel prize

Max planck … big dog before him… Niels Bohr, big dog after him

Faraday and Maxwell, discover electromagnetic field and discovered the parallel math…

Einstein, 40, at 1919 when fame hits.  Would continue six more years of contributing to quantum theory.  But after that  – he stubbornly resisted quantum mechanics and embarked on long, lonely, and unsuccessful efforts to devise unified field theory.

Note he was very humble:

“The cult of the individual personalities is always, in my view, unjustified … it strikes me as unfair and even in bad taste, to select a few for boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to them.” -Einstein

 

Mystery 

“To me the most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science.  He who this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.” – Einstein

“try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernable laws and connections there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable” -Einstein

“to sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly…” -Einstein

Episode # 98
Original Airdate: February 17, 2021
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Length: 30 minutes

((A real solid episode… much food for thought))

The key question I pose to you, the listener:

Growing up, did your family have a weekly day of rest, of recharge?  Was it effective?  What were the best aspects of this day?

In your life now, is there a weekly day of rest?  What is the ritual?  Is it working well?

And looking forward, if you could build a ritual – what elements would you include – music? exercise? cooking? eating? reading? watching a movie?

While this episode is practical in that it is meant to encourage an evaluation of our day of rest, It also drifts (wonderfully) to some deeper questions,  questions that are a relevant in contemporary social debate: how can we develop a nuanced relationship with human’s past, human’s old cultural institutions, and our collective human history?

And of course, I also tell my own story of building a good ‘day-of-rest-and-recharge’ ritual.

Tune in!

 

Episode #097
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Original Airdate: 28 January 2021
Length: 29 minutes

Main topics:

Two homework assignments: 1) In the trenches reflection on our times in the middle of winter of Corona II, and 2) design your own school, based on your experiences of your years of school.  If we were designing a school to help mold healthy well-rounded adults, what would the main subjects be?

The Validator, Superhero of Emotional Validation

 

Episode #096
Original Airdate: 31 December 2020
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Length: 25 minutes

References:

Practical Skill: New Year’s Resolutions

Episode #095
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Original Airdate: 9 December 2020
Length: 24

What to make of these bizarre times we are living through… threats to democracy… corona times … heading into a tough winter challenge.

 

 

Episode #094
Original Airdate: Oct 30 2020
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Length: 17 minutes

References:

Passages. Predictable Crises in Adult Life.  1976

Episode #93
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Original Airdate: 16 October 2020
Length: 24 minutes

Reference:

“How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart” David Foster Wallace. From the book Consider the Lobster. 2006.  Originally published Aug 30, 1992.

Episode #092
Original Airdate: 1 October 2020
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Length: 23 minutes

 

References:

“Two types of choices seem to have been crucial in tipping the outcomes [of various societies] toward success or failure: long-term planning and a willingness to reconsider long-term values.  On reflection we can recognize the crucial role of these same two choices for the outcomes of individual lives.” -Jared Diamond, from the book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. December 2004.

Ani Difranco, “Buildings and Bridges.” Out of Range. July 26, 1994

Episode #091
Produced by: Doug Krisch
Original Airdate: 17 September 2020
Length: 30 minutes

 

References

“Rastaman Vibrations” Bob Marley.  30 April 1976.

“Two types of choices seem to have been crucial in tipping the outcomes [of various societies] toward success or failure: long-term planning and a willingness to reconsider long-term values.  On reflection we can recognize the crucial role of these same two choices for the outcomes of individual lives.” -Jared Diamond, from the book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. December 2004.