Mess, Mayhem, and Order
My computer sits on a desk which is, like many, cluttered. The assortment of things comprising that clutter changes from time to time but there are always three things which remain constant nearby. There are, in no particular order, a palm-size wooden cross made by a gentleman with Alzheimer’s as a thank you for a thank you note I wrote to him; a set of hand weights; and a coloring desk calendar. These items are not apparent to someone looking at my desk but there represent a sense of order and purpose to me.
Today is Pi Day. It is also Albert Einstein’s birthday. Albert Einstein is regarded worldwide as a genius but he wasn’t always thought of so highly. Too poor to marry his first love, with whom he would go on to have three children, Einstein challenged the current thinking in practically everything he did. The German-born physicist Albert Einstein developed the first of his groundbreaking theories while working as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern. After making his name with four scientific articles published in 1905, he went on to win worldwide fame for his general theory of relativity and a Nobel Prize in 1921 for his explanation of the phenomenon known as the photoelectric effect.
An outspoken pacifist who was publicly identified with the Zionist movement, Einstein emigrated from Germany to the United States when the Nazis took power before World War II. He lived and worked in Princeton, New Jersey, for the remainder of his life. By the time Einstein’s wife Elsa died in 1936, he had been involved for more than a decade with his efforts to find a unified field theory, which would incorporate all the laws of the universe, and those of physics, into a single framework. In the process, Einstein became increasingly isolated from many of his colleagues, who were focused mainly on the quantum theory and its implications, rather than on relativity.
Einstein, who became a U.S. citizen in 1940 but retained his Swiss citizenship, was never asked to participate in the resulting Manhattan Project, as the U.S. government suspected his socialist and pacifist views. In 1952, Einstein declined an offer extended by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s premier, to become president of Israel. Throughout the last years of his life, Einstein continued his quest for a unified field theory. Though he published an article on the theory in Scientific American in 1950, it remained unfinished when he died, of an aortic aneurysm, five years later. In the decades following his death, Einstein’s reputation and stature in the world of physics only grew, as physicists began to unravel the mystery of the so-called “strong force” (the missing piece of his unified field theory) and space satellites further verified the principles of his cosmology.
These snippets of biography of the life of Albert Einstein are from the History.com website but they are found in every science book and encyclopedia worldwide. Famous pictures of a disheveled Einstein are found in most schools and he has come to epitomize the essence of an “absent-minded professor”. Einstein was not asked to participate in the Manhattan Project because those in charge both doubted and feared his pacifist views. He invoked respect and nervousness from his colleagues and was not universally regarded as the great mind of science he is today until a decade after his passing.
Today is March 14th or 3.14 as it is written in some calendars. The mathematical constant pi is a real number defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference C to its diameter. Regardless of the size of the circle, pi remains the same. A number that goes on in infinity, it is, roughly speaking, written as 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679…
So what does the mess on my desk, the mayhem of Einstein’s theories (a mayhem that proved to be truth), and the order that pi gives the world have to do with each other? The same thing the Beatitudes offer us – reason. You see, regardless of what else gets piled up on my desk, I know that they is a tool for meditation at hand – my palm-sized cross. While the cross is a symbol with meaning, it is who made it and why that really helps me focus and brings order and reason to my moment and being. A man not well-known to me at all found, in the throes of his declining mental ability that Alzheimer’s brings, a new talent in woodworking. Being touched by a note I wrote to him, one of many such notes I had written, he shared that talent with me in gratitude, reminding me that we all have a reason to give thanks.
The weights and the calendar are things to do when confronted with the complexities and idiosyncrasies of technology. They remind me that I can either sit or get mad or I can be patient and find something constructive to do. Pi brings order to the circle of life, an order that Albert Einstein suspected and proved. Without the chaos, there would not have been a need for his studies. Without the issues we confront daily, issues mentioned in the Beatitudes, there would be no need for introspection, mediation, spiritual growth, and discernment.
On this day, celebrate the messiness of a pizza pie or the smoothness of a quiche with its perfect pi and delectable circumference. Then rejoice with a fruit pie. The pizza will be messy because every good pizza is and the quiche will combine what seems to be a pandemonium or mayhem of different ingredients. Finally, though, the dessert pies will be made to order with the precision that baking requires. Life requires some precision to deal with its messes and mayhem. It is the mess, the mayhem and the resulting order that binds us together. It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we truly discover the meaning of life and our need for each other.
Post Script: Well, you are probably reading this on March 15th because….life got messy, Mother Nature flexed her muscles, and technology messed me up. The thing is… Every day is Pi Day because Pi is a constant. Just as our living should be about goodness and kindness as our constant, pi will always be 3.14 and while my own March 14th has been more akin to the Idea of March, March 15th, I take heart in knowing that regardless of the actual date, there are constant is our lives that help us navigate the messes and mayhem and bring order.