October 25, 2017

"A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness."

Scribbed Albert Einstein in German on hotel letterhead, making a document in lieu of a tip for a bellboy. The paper sold at auction yesterday for $1.5 million (NYT).

People love their Einstein quotes. Einstein is the one person we all recognize as GENIUS!!! so we imagine — kind of absurdly — that anything that popped out of his noggin is genuisish.

"A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness."

He wrote that at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. I wonder if he was trying to crank out something that the Japanese bellboy would see as wise — some Japanese-sounding wisdom.

IN THE COMMENTS: Leslie Graves said:
The Imperial Hotel! Presumably, he was in the version of it that lasted from 1922-1967, and that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a man who did not live a calm and modest life.
Yes, the article says 1922.

39 comments:

tcrosse said...

Think of the career he could have had writing fortune cookies. Sad.

Michael K said...

Cheapskate. I'll have to try that.

Just an old country lawyer said...

If it is still around, presumably the Japanese bellhop held on to it and conceivably sold it to someone for something. I don't think anyone will ever pay over a million bucks for anything I write; at least not since I no longer practice law and cannot write anything that my E&O carrier will have to cover.

rehajm said...

So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

Robert Cook said...

I think he's right.

JPS said...

Gary Larson captured this in the strip, Einstein and son:

"You want to have to use your brain your whole life like me? No kid of mine's going through that hell. Here, learn to dribble this thing."

Leslie Graves said...

The Imperial Hotel! Presumably, he was in the version of it that lasted from 1922-1967, and that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a man who did not live a calm and modest life.

http://franklloydwright.org/site/imperial-hotel-lobby-reconstruction/

'TreHammer said...

I understand that Picasso used to do the same thing. I also read somewhere that he never could get people to cash his check because they wanted to save his signature. Urban myths?

mccullough said...

If he were so smart, he would have written it in Japanese

Ignorance is Bliss said...

rehajm said...

So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

LOL

tim in vermont said...

Supposedly Rodin paid a plumber who had been their several days with a scribble he made on the spot at his coffee table.

Michael McClain said...

Cheap bastard.

tim in vermont said...

BTW, Einstein is right.

mockturtle said...

It's funny how Einstein springs to mind when the term 'genius' is used. Personally, I would call Shakespeare the greater genius. And da Vinci.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Blogger Ignorance is Bliss said...
rehajm said...

So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

LOL


The Dalai Lama's top was better.

Sebastian said...

"I wonder if he was trying to crank out something." Can't leave it at that. Einstein calls for Althousian deconstruction.

He seems to be assuming happiness is worth striving for. But why? He didn't seem to do that himself; he had higher ambitions. It's so condescending! In fact, it's doubly condescending: trite cheapskatery combined with the blithe assumption that ordinary people have nothing better to do than trying to be happy. Ugh!

And who is he to talk about modesty? He wasn't modest at all! He is saying: here, take my words in lieu of payment. Immodestly advocating modesty is crude hypocrisy. You'd expect something more amusing, something more interesting from a genius. Bob Dylan would have been ashamed of writing such a fortune-cookie phrase. Which makes me think that, when it comes to things that matter, physics is overrated.

And what if you are the restless seeker type--being calm and modest must be so boring! No one can be happy while being bored.

Anyway, something like that.

jameswhy said...

What he should have written down was the bellhop's name, so he could later go find him and give him his millipn-yen tip! Putz! Plus his life advice sucks.

whitney said...

Perhaps he was just flattering the Bellboy

Leland said...

Better fortune cookie: "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success"

A genius would drop the redundant preposition.

tim in vermont said...

Isaack Newton was an elfin genius if ever there was one.

tim in vermont said...

And what if you are the restless seeker type

That's a good point. I guess the point of his little saying, which I agree is kind of wordy, is that if you are not constantly driven for success, and manage a calm and modest life, don't feel bad about it, it's pretty good, better than most!

Nihimon said...

Sometimes, words get hard to type when we fashion them in a novel way. Such as, "genuisish".

George Spix said...

My favorite, Before science proved that every god but Gaia is dead

"Before God we are equally wise, and equally foolish."

http://www.mundarda.wordpress.com

Rob McLean said...

If getting somebody to pay $1.5MM for a piece of paper ain't genius, then I don't know what is!

Bob Loblaw said...

Reminds me of that scene in Caddyshack where Bill Murray's character recounts his Dalai Lama story.

Einstein, like most brilliant scientists, said a lot of stupid things when he strayed from his bailiwick. But this isn't one of them.

anti-de Sitter space said...

Who knew that stars writing stuff could be so valuable? Cool way to make dough.

But sometimes it's harder to monetize:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/politics/donald-trump-sign-woman-chest-rally-virginia/index.html

Char Char Binks said...

F. Lloyd Wright was a genius, and he didn't mind saying so.

Narayanan Subramanian said...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/unrealfacts.com/einstein-womanizer-wear-silk-robe-flash-women/amp/.

Somebody dropped a 'W'

Clark said...

I've always found pieces of advice like that to be trite and almost always delivered from people who can't really be sure it is true. Einstein was extremely ambitious in his pursuit of academic excellence. I've heard countless rich CEO's at conferences talking about how little money and title matter. It's disingenuous.

richlb said...

If a Christian leaves a Bible verse in lieu of a tip, they are douchebags.

mockturtle said...

If a Christian leaves a Bible verse in lieu of a tip, they are douchebags.

It's a better witness to leave both. ;-)

Howard said...

Apparently, most of the roof's of FLW design leak... even Eddie's doghouse.

Paul Graves said...

That's not even *original* genuisness. It's a ripoff of Proverbs 15:16: Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

Josephbleau said...

Well, 1.5 mill discounted at 6 per cent over 90 years is $8,000 so old Einstein was a pretty big tipper!

Josephbleau said...

Especially $8000 1922 dollars.

Char Char Binks said...

Is that from Proverbs? I thought maybe Albert got it from his fortune cookie.

walter said...

Genius used the power of zero.

chuck said...

Calm and modest life does not describe Einstein's. He may not have been bothered much by common pursuits, but his obsessions ran deep.


Einstein had prepared the final form of the equations for that talk and had to work hard, relatively to the standards of this "lazy dog":


“One thing is for sure, that I’ve never been so plagued in my life,” wrote Einstein at the time. “Smoking like a chimney, working like a steed, eating without thought, sleeping irregularly.”


His wife Elsa remembered that he was absent-minded in the last two weeks or so and sometimes played the piano mindlessly or stared blankly to the space as if he were Witten. Einstein was exhausted and stinking of cigarettes during the talk (strangely, he only allowed to be photographed with tobacco pipes which "contributed to his calm and objective judgment", he stressed; Albert remembered that to beat his doctor, his grandfather smoke cigarette butts from the street) but he gave us his general relativity. The content of papers was more or less ready but they only appeared in 1916.

cubanbob said...

In fairness to Einstein I heard that at the time tipping was not customary or acceptable in Japan.