Saturday, 24 November 2018

Einstein's Sound of Wisdom

Just a  moment ago, I came across a letter written sixty seven years before this day, by Albert Einstein. It was dated 24th June, 1951, addressed to Jesuit institution. The contents of the letter were for the students of Colegio Anchieta and its main motive was to inspire and encourage the future of that age and the past of our's.

On opening the letter on the screen, a picture with strange characters popped up. It was German which I later realized with all the "fur"s and "ien"s. When I went through a translation of the same letter, I realized that, that letter, which once appeared to be so blank and empty, was brimming with beauty and profoundness.

It said, "He who knows the happiness of understanding, has gained an infallible friend for life. Thinking is to man as flying is to birds. Don't follow the example of a chicken when you could be a lark." I was inspired at the moment by a man who lived ages and miles away from my being...and all through that one image full of strange figures.

Courtesy: The Telegraph

The fact that intrigued me more than the words themselves was that the same words were so empty and so full at the same time. Before knowing the meaning, I was reading the words out loud in order to get the essence. Honestly, it felt like I was chanting like a baby, making random sounds (that too with great difficulty...German can really twist your tongue)...and just then, an abstract thought struck me...

Those random sounds meant so much for one set of people and nothing for another. Similarly, my mother tongue must sound as abstract, meaningless and confusing to the Germans.

Its amazing how humans have created language. They have inserted thoughts and feelings into random sounds, and they have further classified these sounds into different languages and expressions, demonstrating with panache how sounds have evolved into a mode of communication.

When I say "a cake", you immediately think of a cake, or at least understand what I am trying to convey. However, the ground fact is, I have simply emitted a sound with the help of my oral organs. Only because we are taught that this word is supposed to point to an edible mass of flour and sugar, we hard wire our brain to think of the sound and object to be synonymous.

We were taught about Ivan Pavlov's Classical Conditioning experiment in middle school. It is a mirror of our sound-to-meaning technique. In the experiment, a dog came to believe that the ringing of a bell was synonymous to food. We are no different from beasts, except for the fact that we possess a higher intellectual threshold, which might one day cease to be enough.

One will understand the sound transition better if he/she is learning a new language. At first, the words seem so random and absolutely devoid of meaning. Eventually though, the sounds develop a personality. They become pointers and direct us to the real aim of understanding.

The ability to grasp a mode of communication might seem ordinary to a lot, but I will humbly remind you that humans are the only beasts who have found such diversity in sounds and have honored them with thoughts and feelings. We can play with these sounds for a more creative communicating approach. Imagine if only we could use music to talk. The conversation will go something like this:
B: 𝄞𝄫

A: I really like your tea Sir.
B: Thank you miss!

In fact, people do communicate through music on a more abstract level. When low notes along with a few minor ones are played, it conveys the sensation of thrill and mystery. Higher and major notes convey happiness. Slow music tries to foster passion and sadness, and so on and so forth.

Notes, tempo and pitch always carry a surge of emotions and thoughts. Often a musical piece will take you back to a moment of nostalgia. A pointer again. Do you not think it will be great if we consciously learn to communicate through rhythm and music?  

This idea, however abstract it may sound, fascinates me so much that I want to start at it right away. But men stick to what has deep foundations. The mind, over the ages, has become such that it does not feel the urge to fly, but feels the necessity to sit on highly built walls of civilization. A change is not welcomed, unless it is absolutely necessary.

Do you not like changing the colors of the sunsets and oceans on odd days?

Nonetheless, I feel most grateful to be present here consciously as a human for the beauty and power of words and language, and my ability to grasp it unlike any other creature. It is a pleasure to hear, perceive and understand it, without even speaking it. It is a massive treasure which every human consciousness has been bestowed with.

So, men may remember that treasure does not always mean gold, it can mean much more.