Tag Archives: Albert Einstein

A call for peace

Let there be peace. This is my solemn prayer.  That we need not die or assassinate each other’s character to experience it.  I don’t just want to rest in peace but to live in peace.

But, it is hard to find peace and quiet these days. It is an unlikely combination.  Albert Einstein said, “Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order— in short government.” Maybe this is why the American Empire keeps up a racket.  Its politicians make a fuss.

Old arguments rile us up and kick up dust. The breaking news is breaking us.  Another day, another insult, another mass shooting, another natural or human- made disaster, another scandal, another threat, another investigation.  Life has been reduced to litigation.

Our lives are littered with disputes. Who will clean this up?  As we dumpster dive into people’s lives, sifting through trashy details for treasures, for trophies, for the win in yet another argument.  But Jesus said that for all we might gain, we lose.  He challenges our capitalistic conclusions: “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life[i],” “and lose their soul”?[ii]

And what are we fighting about now? What is he[iii] lying about now?  What are we trying to get out of now?  What I wouldn’t do for peace of mind, for a piece of time without digs, jabs, low blows and cheap shots.  What I wouldn’t give for relief from manipulations, plots, schemes and double- dealing.

We pick fights and then pick at the fights. America is one big sore spot, made worse by the backbiting, the gas lighting.  Hair is on fire while trying to tread lightly.  We walk on egg shells.  It is not safe for anyone to carry the truth of our pain, our sadness, our doubts.

Instead, we cry, “Peace, peace.”   Still, the weight of reality is crushing us, bearing down on us, smashing our faces against the window, weighting us down in our pews.  We hold our tongues and consequently, can’t move.

But, my elders would say, “Tell the truth and shame the devil.”

Because lies don’t really serve us; instead, they do the devil’s bidding. They are his children.  Lies are the adversary’s “native tongue.”[iv]  No believer should be fluent in this language.

At least that is what Jesus said to those in the temple, “He (that is the devil) was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.”[v]

Jesus says that because he tells the truth, they doubt him. Because he tells the truth, Jesus will not make a believer out of them.  Instead, they pick up stones. Rest in peace, Jesus. Because they would rather kill the messenger than hear him out.

Regrettably, not much has changed from his time until now. Rather than hear the ugly truth, we pick up stones.  Shooing away “our better angels,” we let the devil come along.  “Deceiving and being deceived,”[vi] we think peace will come after just one more lie.

We say, “That’s not true. We’re okay.  Everything’s fine.”  With pieces of the sky in our hair, we tell each other, “There’s nothing to see here.  Please go back inside.  Go back to business as usual.  Peace, peace.”

Prophet- preachers find themselves in a familiar tough spot. Walter Brueggeman said there are three urgent prophetic tasks: to assert reality, that is truth- telling, to give voice to grief in spite of our denials and to proclaim hope less we fall into despair.[vii] Jeremiah warned us not to cry, “Peace, peace when there is no peace.”[viii]  Still, there are those who want us to fake it until we make it to heaven, to nod and smile, to go along to get along, to keep everyone comfortable, to maintain the status quo and to not get out of the boat.  But, “the rain drops keep falling on (our) heads.”

Malcolm Muggeridge teaches us, “People do not believe lies because they have to but because they want to.” They need to keep the argument going, keep the power of truth bogged down in tedious and unnecessary paperwork.  Friedrich Nietzsche was right, “The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.” Yet, the psalmist makes none but cried, “I kept my faith, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’  I said in my consternation, ‘Everyone is a liar.’”[ix]

Which is why it is essential that we know Jesus. Jesus said that if we know him, we know freedom.  He said, “… you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”[x]  How then are we so confined, so short of breath, so short- tempered?  Why do we seem unable to take another step—even if it is in the direction of understanding?  It is due to the growing anxiety in our world as the lies are piled on top of us.  Because as the saying goes, “If at first you’re not believed, lie, lie again.”

Still, it is hard to keep the world at arm’s length when it is constantly trying to pull you in, draw you in, bring you into the fight. It tells one lie, one half- truth at a time.  It offers illusions at half price and sells wholesale deceptions.  “Truth is whatever you want it to be,” they say.  But, as believers, we cannot make peace with that.

And I cannot make sense of that; still, there is a blessing in making peace no matter what becomes of us. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”[xi]  I receive his blessing and offer it to you.

____________________________

[i] Mark 8.36, NRSV

[ii] Mark 8.36, KJV

[iii] That is, Donald Trump

[iv] John 8.44, NIV

[v] John 8.44b-45, NRSV

[vi] Second Timothy 3.13

[vii] Walter Brueggeman, Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 2014), 2.

[viii] Jeremiah 6.14

[ix] Psalm 116.10-11, NRSV

[x] John 8.32, NRSV

[xi] Matthew 5.9

Now You’re Thinking

independent-thinking-stepsI am most frustrated by those who attempt to pull me back into what has been thought before concerning race.  Don’t they notice the name of the blog?  Clearly, I am beyond it.

I am moving in a different direction: forward.  And I don’t see the need in talking about the past if that is not where I am headed.  Such a conversation does not provide me with directions.

I know the history; I have a library of books, conversations and experiences to prove it.  I don’t need to be reminded.  No alarm clock required.  I simply cannot change, I will not transform apart from discussions of what can be, what should be, what will be.

I am aware and I am not interested even in the present.  I know what people are doing and will continue to do.  That is, unless we step out of this time, create and introduce a new reality.

So, I want to talk about the time to come, the time that is yet to be and the future of race.  I want to talk about what will be said of us apart from race and I want to begin the conversation now.

To be clear, a conversation about the social construct of race is one about the future of our self- understanding and awareness as human beings.  Away with the cyclical arguments that don’t bring us full circle.  I mean, what is the point of a mind if I am not going to use it?  Frankly, thinking what has been thought before is not to be confused with using one’s mind.  Recycling is not invention.

I want a new thought.  I want to consider the possibilities of racelessness.  I should warn you.  It does not fit the small- minded.  No, this requires big thoughts and more than elbow room.

I’m going to need more space and it can not be confined to a stereotypical geographical location.  I am going to need more people and not those that prejudice would pick for me.  I am going to need a larger table and more chairs.

The seating capacity of my mind must be increased.  It is not for members only or those thoughts that resemble each other.  And no race cards apply here.  I don’t have a membership discount or a rewards program.

I want to think deeply about my humanity and that of my neighbors.  I want to consider a new life, an abundant life with words never considered.  I want my thinking to be fruitful and the word post- racial comes to mind often.  I want to think it more and more since so many persons are against the very thought of it.  I want to see where the word leads because I know the broad way that race wants me to take.

But, I don’t believe that we have considered who we are if we remain in these social categories.  I don’t trust that we have examined who we are if we are too afraid to pull back the covers, the layers of race.  I don’t think that we have seen ourselves at all.  Albert Einstein said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”

When we are able to consider life, to think about ourselves apart from the thoughts of others, well, now you’re thinking.

Einstein On Race Prejudice

Q: Do you feel that race prejudice in the United States is merely a symptom of a world-wide conflict?

A: Race prejudice has unfortunately become an American tradition which is uncritically handed down from one generation to the next. The only remedies are enlightenment and education.  This is a slow and painstaking process in which all right- thinking people should take part.

Fred Jerome and Rodger Taylor, Einstein on Race and Racism, “Interview with Cheyney Record” (October 1948)

A Jew born in Ulm Germany on March 14, 1879, Albert Einstein is the American image of genius.  He is the author of the Special Theory of Relativity and the mathematical genius who discovered that matter and energy are different forms of the same thing and created the well- known formula e=mc².  What he is less well- known for is his friendship with Paul Robeson, his stance on lynching in America, his participation in the anti-lynching crusade and his views on race and racism.

Einstein is also a coach of mine on this pilgrimage to  race-lessnesss and I am developing a formula of my own.  He said to William Miller in an interview printed by Life magazine on May 2, 1955, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”  Einstein say to Otto Juliusburger in 1942, “People like you and I, though mortal of course, like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live.  What I mean is that we never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery in to which we were born.”  It encourages me to know that there is perhaps a reason why I do not uncritically accept the traditions of racism and the belief in race, that my curiosity as to our blind allegiance to race has purpose and meaning.  There is a reason for my curiosity and I won’t stop questioning the purpose of race in the life of the Christian believer.  And as an added bonus, this curiosity will help me maintain my youthful appearance!

I agree with Einstein that the dismantling of race prejudice and for me, race requires enlightenment and education.  I know this to be true as this work requires a lot of reading and all of the words are not friendly towards persons who are socially defined as black.  It is often difficult to read the stories of hatred.  Still, it is necessary to know the source of race.  In order to dismantle it, you must go to the root of it and I plan to shake its foundation.  I want to see the walls of the social category of race come tumbling down.  It is the social mountain that I want cast into the sea. Race is the Jericho wall that I will walk around for as long as it takes because I believe that it will come down.

The most troubling thing has been the discovery that those walls have been built up inside of me. Oh, wretched woman that I am!  Often it seems that the very thing that I seek to rid myself of is often present with me.  Ridding myself of race will shake the very foundations of me and I welcome the new position.  Besides, my coach says, “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”

What of your self maintains the positions of race and the practices of racism?  What do you think of race?  What is the nature of your relationship with it?  Why is the tradition handed down year after year, generation after generation?  What are we to make of its utility in our lives as believers?  These questions are for all right-thinking people. The source of race prejudice is our belief in race.  Its hierarchical ranking and social ordering is a source of world-wide conflict.  Our delivery from race will be slow and painstaking but its a walk in the direction of freedom.  We move forward not with our feet but by our questions.  Take a step today.

Faster Than The Speed of Light

The solar system is just not what it used to be, at least not what it was when I was in school. First, they tell me that Pluto is not a planet. Now, there is something that travels faster than the speed of light! This morning, while driving my husband to work, I learned that a team of international scientists have recently tracked subatomic particles that traveled sixty nanoseconds or sixty billionths of a second faster than light. This finding could potentially undermine Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, that the speed of light is a “cosmic constant” and nothing can travel faster than it, a foundational principle of physics.

I am often confronted with the notion though posited as a fact that race is biological, that our differences are genetic, that it has been proven scientifically. Today, I wonder if I am simply ahead of the curve. I mean, what is meant by proven if the theory of relativity established in 1905 is now being questioned? And the subatomic particle has always been there despite their inability to track it; consequently, light was never fastest. Maybe this is why they are called theories?

Well, race is a theory among many to explain the different variations of human beings. The question of why we are different is not new but the belief and acceptance of the theory of race as the explanation for those differences is. Race began as a compilation of folk beliefs, a collection of stories that captured the interactions between two nations or cultures. Viewing human beings as races and the rationale for it only dates back to the 17th century as the concept of race gained popularity during the scientific revolution in Europe.

In 1755, Carolus Linnaeus, the creator of a zoological taxonomy, divided human beings into categories. Twenty years later, in 1775, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach established five divisions of human beings; some of the terms are still used today in racial classification: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Ethiopian (later Negroid), American Indian and Malayan. It should be noted that there was no hierarchical ranking assigned to these groups and not all cultures were assigned a category. Sadly, much of this “science” was used to endorse colonialism and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The physical differences would soon be translated into intellectual, behavioral and moral differences. Persons would soon be sorted by color and deemed a part of the majority or the minority, the supreme or the inferior, the in or the out group.

So, stories became science became a hierarchical system. Now, a story, cloaked in the shroud of science, can walk into any aspect of American life without explanation or introduction as social truth. Well, it’s not my truth; it’s not my story. And I don’t live by theory. I live by faith and it is my means of progress as the songwriter says, “We’ve come this far by faith.” I would like to believe that it travels faster than the recently discovered subatomic particle.

Pace Yourself

Like those who say of themselves “I was born to sing” or “I was born to dance,” speaking of an innate desire or ability, I can say of this work that I was born to do it. My reponse to race has remained consistent though only recently have I come to understand why. This fascination began as a child with the creation of montages using images and words surrounding American slavery, Jim Crow segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. I was drawn to the stories of Emmett Till, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair and Cynthia Wesley because of the grotesque means by which they died and their ages.  Later, my interest turned to the three civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. In college, I became intrigued by lynchings. Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America was both amazing and jarring. So, this was the fruit of a belief in supremacy? I also read all 466 pages of Philip Dray’s At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, an in-depth record of lynchings.  But, unlike so many others before me, my response to learning about this deeply entrenched hatred of others— the collection of body parts as souvenirs, the postcards that documented the celebration of mob justice and the promotion of these events as if circuses, county fairs or town parades— did not spur me to hate but further captivated me in that race could so far remove us from ourselves.

Race has always been of interest to me and I find myself drawn to anything racial. In fact, I am certain that all of my past moments are but a collection of compulsions designed to push me to this awareness. My passion for a race- less life is not the defeatist position of one who has given up on a conversation about race or evidence of naiveté as to the troubling history of hurt shared by Americans. Instead, I believe, like Albert Einstein, that “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” So, no, I am not “black and proud.” A deliverance from the snares of race will require that we not set the trap for others and that we step outside of it.

I concur with Socrates that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and race is one such example. For me, the racialized life is not worth living as my life as a black person has already been figured out. Everything, down to the name of my hair has already been experienced and given. There is simply no newness in the racialized life and I will admit that the steps taken toward accepting this spiritual truth are painstaking and frightening as one will have to discover who they are a part from race as its social truths have done much to shape our perceptions, determine our interactions and define our relationships with ourselves, others and God.  It is no small step.

But, Thomas Merton in The New Man says, “Meaning is not something that we discover in ourselves or in our lives. The true meaning has to be revealed… To find the full meaning of our existence, we must not find the meaning that we expect but the meaning that is revealed to us by God.”  I understand that this race-less life is not something that persons have run toward but I do believe that race is a meaning that we expect. It is not something that we are born to be or that God has revealed to us. This deeper and truer meaning takes time so pace yourself.