"How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a
brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes
thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from
daily life that one exists for other people -- first of all for
those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly
dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies
we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day
I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors
of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order
to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...
"I have never looked
upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves -- this critical basis
I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way,
and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully,
have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship
with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective
world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific
endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects
of human efforts -- possessions, outward success, luxury -- have
always seemed to me contemptible.
"My passionate sense
of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted
oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other
human beings and human communities. I am truly a 'lone traveler'
and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even
my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these
ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude..."
"My political ideal is
democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man
idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient
of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through
no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the
desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which
I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle.
I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one
man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility.
But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their
leader. In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates;
force attracts men of low morality... The really valuable thing in
the pageant of human life seems to me not the political state, but
the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates
the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in
thought and dull in feeling.
"This topic brings
me to that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which
I abhor... This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished
with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence,
and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism
-- how passionately I hate them!
"The most beautiful
experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental
emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.
Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel,
is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience
of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion.
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our
perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty,
which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds:
it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity.
In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man...
I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge,
a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the
humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that
manifests itself in nature."
See also Einstein's
Third Paradise, an essay by Gerald Holton
The text of Albert Einstein's copyrighted essay,
"The World As I See It," was shortened for our Web exhibit. The
essay was originally published in "Forum and Century," vol. 84,
pp. 193-194, the thirteenth in the Forum series, Living Philosophies.
It is also included in Living Philosophies (pp. 3-7) New
York: Simon Schuster, 1931. For a more recent source, you can also
find a copy of it in A. Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, based on
Mein Weltbild, edited by Carl Seelig, New York: Bonzana Books,
1954 (pp. 8-11).