Monday, April 27, 2015

E = mc^2

I keep dreaming that I can fly. But the dreams, all of them, take place inside. Eager to soar I float up, only to bump against the ceiling. I zip from wall to wall as I seek an open window, a vent, anything that might allow me egress. I grow increasingly frantic. I am suffocating.

Is it better not to be able to fly than to possess the ability but be constrained by circumstance from using it?


I am mesmerized by the apocalyptic footage of the oil-slicked birds that make their home in the Gulf region, birds that flap and flap and flap their wings, so much effort, all to no avail. Are they puzzled to find that they are suddenly failing to do something they've been doing since they were hatchlings?

Are they sad? (I am sad. And angry.) Will these birds persist, day after day after day, in their efforts to fly, or will they give up one day, decide enough is enough?


When Twelve was three years old, he stopped napping during the day. Swiftly I instituted quiet time: one hour in which he'd stay in his room and play with his toys or look at his books. That hour was less for him than it was for me. At least I knew my limits.

Quiet time lasted for nearly a year, until one Saturday when, heavily pregnant with Eight, I was half-reading, half-napping and heard a noise. I glanced up and startled to see the face of my preschooler peeking around the doorway. Twelve looked like he'd swallowed the canary and the cat, too. He'd never until that moment realized that he could simply open the door to his room and walk out.

I'm not sure that Einstein could have felt any more pleased with himself when he worked out the equation for the equivalence of mass and energy than my son did that afternoon.


Today my friend and I were having lunch at a restaurant. We'd taken window seats so that we could look at the passers-by. We were talking about an eye doctor in town whose patients routinely wait for ninety minutes before being called in for their appointments.

And then the eye doctor himself walked past our window. It was as if our dialogue alone had substantiated him. Energy, to mass.


Eight has been reading a book about Einstein's life. He tells me that in German, 'Einstein' means 'one stone.' And, in the same breath, he reports that Einstein was deeply concerned about the moral implications of the technology made possible by scientific knowledge.

I nod. I know this. I think of Oppenheimer, and the bomb.

"Mommy!," Eight cries urgently. "It's like the oil spilling into the Gulf, isn't it? Einstein would have been very sad about that, right?"

"Yes, baby," I murmur. "He would have been horrified, I think."

Now it is Eight's turn to nod; he does so with a solemnity that brings me perilously close to tears.

I remember my recurring dream, and I wonder when all the windows disappeared, and how it could be possible that no one noticed when they did.

written in 2010

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