“Keep your baby eyes….on….”

In a letter dated 29th September 1947 wishing his friend, Otto Juliusburger, on his 80th birthday, Albert Einstein writes that “People like us….do not grow old.”

Why is this so? Because we “stand forever curious as children before the great puzzle in the midst of which we have been placed.”

We find this idea of seeing with childlike eyes — open, sincere, accepting, questioning, enquiring, and wondering — in a letter written  by the pioneering investigative journalist Lincoln Steffens. 

In this letter (one of the many gems in Dorie Lawson’s “Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children”) to his two-year old son, Pete, Lincoln (then about sixty) observes that, truth be told, “Nobody understands things as they are.”

He writes: “An educated mind is nothing but the God-given mind of a child after his parents’ and his grandparents’ generation have got through molding it.”

“We can’t help teaching you,” Lincoln writes, but cautions that “we are prone to teach you what we know.”

Lincoln then goes on to gift his son (and each of us) these profound words. “Remember we really don’t know anything. Keep your baby eyes (which are the eyes of genius) on….”

In “Camille Saint Saint-Saëns: A Life”, the biography of the legendary organist, composer, and conductor, Brian Rees quotes an observation made of Camille (at a certain point in his music career): “He knows everything, but lacks inexperience.”

Peace 😊

“shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.”

In “Walking with Krishnamurti”, Devyani Mangaldas paints a moving picture of her mother’s life on the canvas of her beautiful lifelong friendship with the philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Among other things, Devyani writes of her mother, Nandini Mehta, establishing Bal Anand, a school for poor, uncared-for children — an initiative that she poured herself into all her life, an institution that “changed the course of countless lives.”

“One rainy day in July 1954,” Nandini’s house-help, “brought in two young girls. She had discovered them standing forlorn in the torrential rain beside an overflowing drain. Their mother had just died, and their father lay on a pavement nearby in a drunken stupor. The girls,  Matu and Bhaja, aged two and four, were shivering, perplexed, and frightened.”

Devyani writtes that “Nandini reached out to them….dried their hair….held them close, calmed their shivering bodies, and gave them a few biscuits to eat.

The next day they reappeared and stood helplessly at the gate. Nandini noticed them and gave them a snack, and this time, also a piece of paper and a crayon. The three of them sat together under the shade of a mango tree and talked and coloured.”

This led Nandini to set up Bal Anand — a place that started with these two young girls and grew to be home for many many. It was a place where children were tutored in academic subjects, and got nutritious food. But more importantly, at Bal Anand, children “felt cared for and experienced affection” — it was a place that “treated them as children, not as drivers’ or cooks’ children.”

Nandini lived Krishnamurti’s teachings, and “Bal Anand ran on the power of love and strength of Nandini’s compassion.”

In what is arguably his most profound Talk (titled “A Time to Break Silence”, delivered on 4th April 1967), Martin Luther King Jr. calls out to each of us. “Let us love one another” — love that is “all-embracing and unconditional.”

Elsewhere in the Talk, he exhorts us to “shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.”

He then speaks to conscience.

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Peace 😊

“Each one of you can change the world….”

Sometime in the late 1940s, a young lady wanted to pursue a doctoral program in Astronomy (or related areas) at Princeton University. The University was not admitting women at that time, and she went on to study at Cornell, and Georgetown Universities. 

On 31st May 2005, Princeton awarded the lady (then about 77 years old) an honorary doctorate, and wrote of her: “A childhood fascination with the motion of stars led her to a half-century career that has illuminated our view of the universe. Through meticulous observations, she revealed the presence of vast quantities of a mysterious, unseen substance called dark matter. Her research leaves us with the unsettling yet inspiring conclusion that all the familiar materials of our Earth and sun — hydrogen, oxygen, even gold and silver — are but minor players in a universe made mostly of matter we can barely fathom. Even when facing the skepticism of peers, her contagious enthusiasm and dedicated professionalism have made her a mentor and role model to many who follow the beacon of her example.”

Vera Rubin, by any account i can think of, was a class act. Unfazed by gender discrimination, and discouragement in her early days from peers, she went on to blaze a trail to the edge of the universe, and raise a family of 4 children (each of whom went on to earn doctorates and become scientists) with her scientist husband.

Her husband for 60 years (till his passing), Robert Rubin, it is reported, “arranged his life so his wife….could travel for research and to use telescopes in the United States and Chile.”

Addressing the graduating Class of 1996 (“Bright Galaxies, Dark Matters”) at the University of California, Berkeley, she spoke of the incredible privilege life is. “You drank the milk, the carbon atom entered your bloodstream, traveled to your brain, displaced a carbon atom, and took part in the thought process permitting you to pass your final exam. So without that single carbon atom, made in some star billions of years ago, you might have failed to receive your diploma today. See how lucky you have been?”

For those who aspired to be scientists, she had words that apply to any of us. “Don’t give up. Science is hard and demanding, but each of you must believe that you can succeed. It may seem unlikely tonight, but there is not one among you who cannot make important, major contributions to the world of science. At my commencement on May 17, 48 years ago, the probability that I would be addressing you tonight surely was zero.”

She then offered her hopes for the young audience. “I hope that you will fight injustice and discrimination in all its guises. I hope you will value diversity among your friends, among your colleagues….I hope that when you are in charge, you will do better than my generation has.”

She ended with this incredible line:

“Each one of you can change the world, for you are made of star stuff, and you are connected to the universe.”

Peace 😊