I read a short news story this week that appealed to me. It concerned a handwritten note by Albert Einstein that turned up for auction in Jerusalem 95 years after he had penned it. He had written the note whilst staying at the Imperial Hotel, Japan in 1922 when he was there on a lecture tour. History now tells that he gave the note to a hotel courier by way of a ‘tip’; a lifestyle tip, instead of a monetary tip. The note says: “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” It appeals to me because, if Einstein says it, then it must be true. Furthermore, it lets me off the ‘striving for success’ hook!
This afternoon I took a walk with C.. He asked me about my plans for the future. I told him I didn’t know. I forgot to tell him about Einstein’s advice for a calm and modest life – I should have told him that was my plan. Yet following Einstein’s instructions is easier said than done – a healthy dose of restlessness drives us forward. With the clocks changing, we get an extra hour tonight, a little bonus time to put our feet up, lie in a bath, do whatever it takes to let go of the restless feeling for a while. Tonight we have 60 free minutes to take time out of our own personal odyssey, and not to hurry the journey. Make the most of it.
Ithaka, by C.P. Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley)
“As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”