Einstein’s Legs

Einstein's Legs

My friend Jan Gordon recently sent me several photo reproductions I hadn’t seen, including one of Albert Einstein. Most of us usually see just Einstein’s head. But here, for all those curious about his nether regions, were his legs. Not bad, I’d say!

That got me to thinking, as nearly everything does. Einstein is one of the best brains ever, but his lower extremities are pretty ordinary. He is just another guy.  We are — all of us — much of the time, just like everyone else. Even the great men and women.

We don’t typically think about all the mundane things that make our lives no different from the lives of others.  The time we just spend dressing, shaving, combing, eating a banana, pouring a glass of milk, going to the W/C, brushing our teeth, sleeping, snoring. Even passing gas and sneezing. Think about your idol, your dream date, the person you most admire in the world. The smartest people, the most beautiful people, the powerful people; the good people and the bad people. Abe Lincoln, Hillary Clinton, Heidi Klum, Mick Jagger, Genghis Khan, Mozart, Madame Curie, Queen Elizabeth, everyone.

If a case can be made that people are really the same everywhere, it is in these things. We come into the world with nothing and we leave it in the same way, as the Bible reminds us. Great men and great women are only great in the in-between moments. Much of life is about nothing bigger than grooming, maintenance, and sleep. Take a look at your dogs and cats. They do it too.  Perhaps the secret to Einstein’s greatness was that he didn’t spend much time combing his hair and therefore had more time for deep thought.

Baby Einstein, with legs crossed, as in the above photo.

Baby Einstein, with legs crossed, as in the top photo.

We work and train to win the races of life, but most competitions are over in a flash. Lots more time is spent on wiping our bottom. Maybe one of the tricks to happiness is finding contentment in the things we never think about. According to some sources, women spend .78 hours per day in grooming, men .56. That doesn’t count mowing the lawn, sewing or buying or mending clothes, taking the kids to school, or paying bills.

The next time you think about how much you wish you were more wonderful or more accomplished, look at that photo of Einstein and imagine him clipping his toenails. I have it on good authority that he actually did. I’ll admit, it is not an ennobling thought. But, in that moment, every one of us is an Einstein. Hope that makes you (and me) feel better.

The second photo is of Einstein at age three, the oldest known picture of him. And note that he appears quite well-groomed! It was sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Short and Sweet: Getting From Here to Happiness


Here is something to think about if you plan to turn over a new leaf in the New Year; try a different road on your search for happiness. It comes from a 1967 interview with the movie director Ingmar Bergman for Swedish TV. He told this brief story in response to a question concerning the extent to which he thought about his potential audience as he wrote and directed his movies:

It seems that some time in the Middle Ages a Chinese wood-carver obtained the assignment of making a stand for the temple bells. He was ambitious and talented, so he set about his work. As he began to carve, his mind turned to the idea of all the money he would make for performing his craft. When he was done, however, the wood-carver realized that the stand he had produced was poor. He therefore began again. His head was soon filled with thoughts of how his completed carving would win him everyone’s love. Unfortunately, the second effort also went badly and he again destroyed his sculpture.

While making a third attempt at the wooden stand, the artisan imagined that the finished product would be so fine as to win him immortality. Furious and frustrated when he again failed to do a good job, the wood-carver started over once more. On this fourth occasion he had only a single thought in his head: making the bell stand; and in so doing, he gained love, money, and immortality.

The photo is a Temple bell of the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India, taken by Flickr user 3eyedmonsta, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.