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Averyt: In The Stars

Once again, Albert Einstein brings the biggest present to his own birthday party. March 14 marks 137 years since he was born. Last year his birthday was celebrated with a stir confirming his theories about how we view objects in distance space. This year the day is distinguished by a gift he actually gave the world a century ago, but one that scientists are only now getting around to opening.

For the first time ever, scientists have been able to listen in on the collision of two massive black holes. The collision, which occurred more than a billion years ago, set off a mammoth gravitational sink in space-time, just as Einstein postulated a hundred years ago. The physicists know this because they heard what they are calling a "bird chirp" in the universe. And although not usually given to hyperbole, they are saying the discovery is "monumental", that the skies "will never be the same".

All of which has spurred me to think about the nature of genius. Einstein talks a lot about genius, but he calls it imagination. “Imagination is everything," he said, it the "highest form of research.” For this particular genius, imagination trumps intellect. Einstein once said that none of his discoveries were ever made through the process of rational thought, but by being inquisitive and embracing the mysterious.

I have a young granddaughter who probably understands Einstein better than most of the adults I know. Her mind is inquisitive, she embraces wonder and she intuitively knows what the great genius meant when he said "Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

But children too soon grow to adulthood, often losing their spontaneity, that creative spark. I think Einstein's real genius was his ability to hold on to these childlike qualities - to forever wonder, to imagine, to keep asking why. Although I’ll never really understand the full significance of a gravitational sink in space time, there’s still a lot I can learn from Einstein. I can try, like he did, to always be fascinated by riddles and fairy tales, to know the childhood joy of dawdling and the abandon of play, to believe in what cannot be seen.

Like a child, Einstein never lost his awe of the night sky, he never stopped reaching for stars and dreaming dreams. He never stopped questioning. That is how I understand Einstein's genius, and what I take from his legacy.

Or as he himself put it, "Imagination encircles the world... Never lose a Holy Curiosity".

Free lance writer, Anne Averyt, lives in South Burlington, with her cat Sam and as many flowers as possible.
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