Friday, April 29, 2011

A big hand, please!

Okay, it’s time now for a change of scenery. At this point, let me welcome another character to the cast. A big hand, please, for Mr Einstein. He’s come here at my behest. I admire the man so much that I’m adding him to my chain of predecessors. How about that then? He’s going to be another forebear of mine.

I see, you say. But how would I manage that? Or rather how would Dog? Because, you see, there are certain complications.

But wait, let me finish. I haven’t properly introduced the man. What? You don’t think that I need to? Why is that? Oh I see—he’s so well known. But you’re making an assumption there, you realize.

Isn’t it strange how we jump to conclusions? There must be thousands of people who share the same surname. How did you decide that I wasn’t referring to his son, say, or his uncle? Or even someone from another family altogether? What made you home in on old Albert? Is he more important than everyone else? How so?

Let me ask you something else. When I mentioned the name Einstein, you would have visualized the man. Okay then, can you tell me how he appeared in your mind’s eye. What features stood out?

You’d probably describe Albert’s shock of white hair, his mustache and rumpled clothes. That’s amazing. Because I bet that you’ve never met him. Nope, you must be thinking of a photograph—probably one that was taken near the end of his life (the one where he sticks out his tongue at the camera is a favorite). But do you know—his hair was once cut short. It used to be black. Why not picture him as he was then? Why did you choose to picture him as an old man?

Here’s another quickie for you. Answer me this: How old is Einstein? No, not his age in the picture you chose, but in actual fact. Very well, that shouldn’t be too tough to work out. You take Einstein's birth year and you subtract it from what year it happens to be now. Hey presto, there's your answer. But are you sure? Say we have 2012 minus 1879. That makes one hundred and thirty three. 

Heavens to Murgatroyd! How many 133-year old people do you know? Can you visualize someone that old? And if you can, wouldn’t that creature resemble Gollum more than Albert Einstein? It doesn't bear thinking about, does it? It doesn't sit comfortably, nor does it make sense.

If Albert (Einstein) had died at his peak in a car crash like Diana, the consensus, most likely, would be that he is about 36 years old. It doesn't compute to us that a body keeps aging after it dies (although a corpse’s fingernails and beard are said to keep growing for a few days). Someone who lived a good long innings, though, and who was memorable for several events during their lifetime—how old do you imagine them (assuming they’ve left the land of the living)? It's a weird thing to consider, don't you think?

How about you? Never mind how old you actually are, how old do you feel yourself to be? And does that perceived age change with time? By that I mean that as time passes, does your self-image age too? Does it keep pace with the clock, or by another ratio? And maybe it isn’t uniform—it speeds up or slows down according to your physical condition, health, or life circumstances. 

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