Einstein once remarked that “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” He had good reason to perceive the universe as open to human knowledge, considering that he brought to light an intimate connection linking light, gravity and the unfolding of time.
His demonstration–using science and mathematics—that experience is relative to the circumstances from which we look, has provided a modern parable for the interdependent nature of our lives. I don’t claim to understand the Theory of Relativity, but it is reassuring to know that at every level, from the cosmic to the personal, a profound interrelationship and interpenetration reigns. “As above so below”.
Meanwhile, we are not all equipped to penetrate the mysteries of the universe, as Einstein was. Our own private universe may be full of frustrating people and difficult situations which we feel unable to understand or overcome. What if we are subject to depression, addiction, and different ways of learning (as was actually the case for Einstein, who failed his math classes in school)? What if the cosmos resists our yearning to understand it, to cope with it, and to find a home within it?
Perhaps Einstein’s example can inspire us to believe that we too are capable of comprehending the realms in which our lives unfold. Are we not also subject to the bending arcs of time and pulled off center by the gravity of our fears and desires? Are we not also subject to rhythms of light that map our days and nights, and illuminate our hopes and dreams?
We do not need to achieve Einstein’s insights into the physical realm in order to benefit from his example. Instead of fathoming cosmic mysteries using the language of mathematics, our mission may be to invite the mysterious voices of our own minds to assemble in our hearts so that they can share their unique understandings. Einstein did not need to overturn Newton’s physical laws in order to create a more inclusive view of time, space and light. He used Newton’s laws to embark upon a voyage beyond them. Similarly, our way of making sense of our lives, although flawed, provides a vehicle ready to embark on our own voyage of understanding.
Our task is not to build a new vessel, but to set sail in the one already bobbing at anchor in the harbor of our lives. Technology is always building new vehicles, but appreciating the gift of human intelligence will carry us farther. If our cosmos is knowable then we are already living in a universe woven of knowledge. As with any healthy relationship, knowledge is waiting for us to invite it in. Once we realize that we are part of the very universe we seek to understand, then we will also see that we are most fully known in the act of knowing.