Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Einstein's Folly, Part I

Albert Einstein. What a brilliant mind. What a complex man. Arguably the most recognized scientist in history, he won a Nobel Peace Prize for physics in 1923. But there was a funny side to this serious man that many are unaware of. We've glimpsed it here and there, like in the famous photo of him sticking out his tongue, which was actually part of his vaudeville act. Vaudeville? Yes, vaudeville!

After being expelled from school in Rotterdam, Germany for classroom pranks involving bats and skunks—which resulted in the injury of seven students—Einstein performed vaudeville in New York under the unlikely moniker “Fuzz Ball,” surely a reference to his wild hair. His outrageous and physical comic act brought him into the company of Harry Houdini, WC Fields and the ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen. Bergen's dummy, Charlie McCarthy, was stolen one evening. In the ensuing investigation it was discovered that Einstein, a kleptomaniac, had collected hundreds of “souvenirs” from his fellow performers, including Bergen's dummy. The response to Einstein's scandal included an offer of treatment from Sigmund Freud, and The New York Post dubbed him the “Comic Kleptomaniac.”

Although his antics and practical jokes were not always well received by others, and compulsive behavior aside, this was a man with a hearty sense of humor. Here was a man who loved to laugh. We can’t, of course, know how much of an impact, if any, Einstein’s sense of humor had on his brilliant mind. But when I look at pictures like these, I’m reminded of Jean Houston’s profound words: In the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of possibilities.” How much richer we are today for having been shown the possibilities. Thank you, Mr. Einstein.

Einstein's Folly, Part II


willow said...

He is one of those incredible people that I would love to have dinner with.

Poetikat said...

This was great, Peggy! Have you seen the movie, "I.Q." with Walter Matthau as Einstein? I think he managed to capture that childlike sense of fun that the real man must have possessed. Imagine being in the presence of such fascinating figures as Houdini, Freud, Bergen and W.C. Fields.

By the way, we call my cat, Red, "Fuzz Ball" - but he's no Einstein!


Peggy said...

I so agree, Willow. Wouldn't that be amazing?! (psst, hope you're feeling better)

Kat, I haven't seen "IQ," but I'm adding it to my list as we speak (ahem, type)! I just guffawed, which I don't do very often, thinking about Red... "he's no Einstein"! :-D

Joanne said...

They say intelligence and humor do go hand in hand. I guess Einstein would be a perfect example. What fun these photos are!

Bee said...

Well, humour is definitely a form of intelligence . . . but so charmingly different from our usual associations with scientific types.

I like his sense of play; didn't realize he wanted to steal other's toys, though!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Love him. I have a photograph of him on my desk. He is standing on a beach, in overcoat and tophat, gazing out to sea. I often wonder what he was thinking.

Peggy said...

Joanne and Bee, I couldn't agree more. I've always beleived humor and intelligence are linked. There is something so childlike about him in these phots, isn't there?

Pamela, I don't think I've ever seen that picture of Einstein on the beach. I'm drawn to faces in photographs and always find myself wondering what the subject is thinking about.

Poetikat said...

I wonder if the Three Stooges were actually closet-geniii?

Kat (*guffawing*)

Peggy said...

Oops, I just noticed a typo on my last comment. I'm sure you all understood what I meant, but it should have been 'believed'. That'll teach me to hit Publish without looking at what I wrote!

Barry said...

Brilliantly written Peggy.

And what an exciting discovery to make. This is a side of Einstein I would never have suspected.

I would be amaze if his sense of humour wasn't involved in his being able to "think outside the box" and see the universe in an entirely new way.

Peggy said...

Barry, I agree with you about Einstein's humor being linked to his thinking "outside the box." Such a complicated man, and so many wonderful "gems" to discover about his personality and life.

jeannette stgermain said...

I chuckled while reading about Einstein - yes, some of the characteristics of the "great" lag in social acceptable behavior - Picasso is another one.
One of human tendencies is to put people on a pedestal, and forget they are people, just like you and I! glad I found you- Jeannette