Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)
TITLE: Theory of Everything
By JoAnne Potter
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Alone now, he considered his recent return and the sensation it caused. He’d expected some notoriety, of course, since nearly everyone believed he had died in 1955. Almost no one then knew he had embarked instead on a fifty-year, near-light speed journey to prove his theories involving space and time. Of course, true to his hypotheses, although fifty years had advanced on earth, almost no time at all had passed for him, and he returned essentially the same age as he’d left. He expected people to take notice and they had, but their congratulations wore a hard edge. Why?
Einstein listened to the hum of traffic outside. Everyone was claiming he changed the world, but he’d changed nothing. He had merely connected known and understood physical phenomena, matter and energy, into a quantifiable relationship. In doing that, he showed how time and space, previously thought fixed, actually changed based on the location of their observer.
It’s simple, he thought. As simple as me looking out this fifth floor window to see a car accident differently from my perspective than the driver being hit sees it from his. Both views, although unlike one another, are correct. They must be.
Trying to isolate what was bothering him, he kept remembering one conversation. The woman, wife of a western European delegate to the United Nations, had stood so tall that she had to look slightly down to meet his eyes. He recalled seeing her smile, but why, then, did she look so wistful, almost sad?
“Dr. Einstein, they thought you proved that everything is relative. How could you possibly have known?”
She was wrong, of course. Most people were, because most people didn’t understand physics, and it was only physics to which relativity applied. She, however, like so many others in this modern world, repeated the same erroneous phrase. No serious person, however, could possibly believe everything to be relative. The speed of light? A constant. The laws of physics? Always true.
Then he remembered all the other voices he’d heard. “Everything is relative,” breathed sometimes with pride, but more often with relief, as though freed from all responsibility, all decision. His mouth gaped, his back froze erect, and all background noise slipped from his conscious mind. His own theory, now proven, was being applied in areas where it cannot, must not, hold sway: law, philosophy, government, morality, religion….Good heavens! Right and wrong….
The room slowly darkened as the sun set on the world outside, on the universe with which Einstein knew God did not play dice. In Einstein’s absence, the dice game had begun but under the supervision, not of God, but of a dark, infernal dicemaster in His place. There would be no winners here. This game promised only snake eyes.
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