Physicist and peace activist Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on 14 March 1879.
While watching a German military parade in the 1880s with his parents, young Albert became terrified by the almost mechanical movements of the soldiers who seemed to have no minds of their own. His parents had to promise their frightened son he would never have to become a soldier. Einstein despised militarism and the use of force.
Einstein denounced World War I and after the war became an outspoken pacifist. But the rise of Nazism and the horrifying events of World War II and his Concern that the Nazis were building an atomic bomb, caused him to urge the United States to build one first. Six years later, when the bomb was dropped on civilians, Einstein openly regretted his action and became a champion of nuclear disarmament for the rest of his life. “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”
In a 1944 letter to the Manhattan Project’s Niels Bohr he warned, “When the war is over, then there will be in all countries a pursuit of secret war preparations with technological means which will lead inevitably to preventative wars and to destruction even more terrible than the present destruction of life.”
Some other favorite Einstein quotes:
· Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
· “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
· “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
· ” Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!”
· “The important thing is not to stop questioning”
· “It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
· ” Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. “
· “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle”
Albert Einstein is also credited with the quotation “We cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”
I think about that today and wonder how many ways we prepare for war… both “the war” and prepare for violence and “the wars” we engage in every day. My car gets stolen and the first question is “did you lock it?” we assume the worst. Lock your car, deadbolt your house – the world is full of thieves. , Is this a preparation for war? Loud noises in the night? Better not go look, it could be dangerous… expect violence, prepare for it by staying safe inside. Don’t talk to strangers, they may be dangerous. Got your heart stomped on? That’s what happens when you let yourself be vulnerable – assume the worst…..is this a preparation for war?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for common sense and safety, but I can’t help but wonder. When does our search for safety become a preperation for the worst. Can we prevent a violent world in the same breath we prepare for it. Or is the the quest to “simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” We live in such a culture of violence. If we want to create a culture of peace we start by living it.
And so today, to say “Happy Birthday Al”, I will think about the ways I prepare for war – I how I can change that. I invite you to join me.