Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Einstein and Fairy Tales

Albert Einstein, one of the most intelligent men who ever lived, is famous for his scientific and mathematical writings. But if anything awed him with its infinite power, it was stupidity: “The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits,” he said.

You’d think someone who specialized in formulae wouldn’t think highly of human imagination. Quite to the contrary, he often spoke of the limitations of logic and the immense power of imagination.

You’d also think that his formula for fostering intelligence in children would have something to do with memorizing mathematics facts, or exercises in logic. No way.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales,” Einstein said. “If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Fairy tales. Magic. For a reader, picturing things that couldn’t possibly exist, interacting with one another.

For a writer, taking the impossible and giving it dialogue. Making the impractical work. Giving a plot trajectory for things that could never fly and words to mouthless ideas.

Oh, Albert.

I never knew I loved you. Relatively speaking, of course.

Do you agree with Einstein’s theory of raising intelligent children? Did you do that? Or perhaps were you weaned on fairy tales yourself, as I was?


Megan Sayer said...

If intelligence is the ability to think beyond the "known" and push the boundaries of the known and understood into the realm of dreaming, then absolutely. And if fairy tales help children to do that, then absolutely!

I have nothing to compare my own experience to - I was raised on fairy tales, and moved on to fantasy and magical realism. Faith has always felt like a logical thing to me: believing in things I can't see, because I'm painfully aware that my mind is finite.

The saddest thing I find is meeting people who left believing behind with their fairy-tale books. Not believing in the existence of God - some of these are good Christian people - but believing that God can do impossible things, believing that wild and crazy dreams can actually become a reality.
We're watching some of our dreams become a reality about now. It's kind of freaky. I'll never forget sharing them with one of those aforementioned people though who downplayed the whole idea as "fantasy". Yeah.
Good old Albert. I'd rather listen to him!

Jennifer Major said...

There's a great movie called "I.Q.", Walter Matthau played Albert Einstein. Einstein and his buddies all wanted to fix his niece (Meg Ryan)up with an auto mechanic. It was sweet and hilarious, because all these scientific geniuses had to deal with romance and a guy who was not as brainy as them, but was clearly a gift, and gifted in his own right. They had to use the magic of charm and wit. one of my favourite movies.

In real life, Einstein knew what the box was and he knew one had to think outside of it to make sense of anything. His famous discussion of light and darkness still amazes people. A fairy tale, in any culture, takes the known and throws it sky high. Our kids read ALOT, but we also let them experiment with building things, whether or not the 'things' ever work. Or trying new adventures. My eldest son went to a pilot training program this past summer and had a blast. He was told he only had a 30% chance of making it into the program, but we told him to go , have an adventure and learn all that he could.

Seize the fairy tale.

Dina Sleiman said...

I agree! My oldest child will be starting college in the fall, and she's thinking about majoring in engineering. I wasn't sure about that. She's a very creative dancer/actress, and so I was concerned she wouldn't enjoy engineering. But as we researched it, we discovered that the number 1 trait a successful engineer needs is creativity. Goes right along with what you're saying

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Agree! Agree! Agree! As a mom, I have witnessed this with my children, especially this year as I homeschool (Eeek!). I've witnessed that, sure, a math page engages my daughter's brain. BUT, when I read to her (or she reads to herself), she is engaged in an altogether different way. We just finished reading "The Tale of Desperoux" together. {swoon} We had amazing discussion about the book. I love that.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Oh Yes! (Enthusiastic applause). We are Couldn't Possiblies created and interacting with the Ultimate Couldn't Possibly. We are always saying to Him, "You couldn't possibly...." Be, Do, Make... And He does!
For a long time I have believed that Math is a Fairy language that God gave us to explain some of His perspective. The way it fits together is a Couldn't Possibly in my mind(I am hopelessly disadvantaged in the SPEECH of Math), however, I am enthralled by the THEORIES like Quantum Physics, especially String Theory. The fact that there are certain quantities (like the speed of light or the weight of an atom) that, if changed blow the whole shabang to smithereens prove that God is the ultimate Fairy Tale Author.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Some of my fondest memories are of summer days spent in dress up and acting out fairy tales. We could be anyone, decked out in sister's hand-me-down jewelry and mom's old dresses. I work with children, and love to see what happens when you hand a girl a paper crown.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

To amend and addend:
1. The fact PROVES. (I can't even speak fairy English properly)
2. I have trouble speaking Math because I can't get my multiplication tables to conjugate. And don't mistake conjugate for consummate otherwise I will have a bunch of little multiples running wild.
3. Fictional Literature is the union of a Giant Impossibility (the sweaty-toothed Madman) and me, an Impossibility of Lesser Scope. Somehow He pours something as yet unknown into my vessel and it runs out all over the page. He wishes the fictional world to exist for the improvement of the non-fictional (which we egotistically believe is superiour to make-believe. He knows there is vastness that we could never know otherwise.
4. Forgive me, I cannot see the photo part of the proof that I am not a robot and have to retry several times. If I were a robot I would be able to magnify and resolve the image with fuzzy logic....
Don't get me started again.

Robert White said...

Read J.R.R. Tolkien's essay "On Fairy-Stories." That will explain what Einstein was saying.

BTW - Einstein was right.

Cherry Odelberg said...

I am a "reading is everything," die hard. Well written fiction teaches and unleashes more than dry textbooks ever will. It takes a huge amount of imagination to be abstract and in the end, I think you have to be abstract to understand the potential / the meaning of higher math.

Latayne C Scott said...

Megan, I think that sometimes Christians forget that the solid foundation of our faith -- the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead-- seems completely implausible to others. Fairy tales, in fact, seem more acceptable to them than "improbable" history.

Jennifer, I have to watch that movie! Thanks for the recommendation!

And seize the fairy tale, indeed!

Latayne C Scott said...

Dina, I would never have thought of creativity and engineering in the same sentence. But I guess since much of that craft is figuring out solutions to problems, it makes sense.

Susie, did you meet the author of the Tale of Desperaux when she was at the Calvin Festival a couple of years back? Patti and I did. You would be very inspired by the story of how she began writing -- in a book warehouse!

Latayne C Scott said...

Henrietta, I love the creativity of how you began your comment. And I, too, who am math-disadvantaged, love the theories of quantum physics --in fact, I've begun a book that deals with parallel realities --of the life of a Bible character. Wish me luck, huh?

Debbie-- I think you have the beginnings of a book there. Hand a girl a paper crown. Don't we, as writers, try to hand our reader a paper crown?

Latayne C Scott said...

Wow, Robert -- I had recently read that essay by Tolkien as I was teaching 6th graders The Hobbit. Thank you for the reminder of it!

Cherry, you have hit one of my favorite nails on the head. In many cases, fiction can drive home a lesson ito the heart in a way that straight exposition never can. Even if you memorized it.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Latayne, I sat in on Gary D. Schmidt's interview with her. I have heard that story. So inspiring!

Sharon K. Souza said...

Latayne, what a great post. I love how you ended it ;)

And what great conversation, everyone! Jennifer, that is one of my favorite movies too! It's a lovely film. Yes, Latayne, see it if you can.

Jennifer Major said...

Sharon, the scene where they're walking and eating ice cream and Einstein says "Ah you sinking vat I'm sinking?"
And Tim Robbins' character says "what are the odds of that happening?"