Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Einstein's Dreams | 10 June 1905 | Summary



In this world time is measured in quality rather than quantity. A woman waits for a man to meet her to take her to the gardens—she's not sure when he will come, but she knows it will be soon. She passes the time waiting reading a book. The next day he arrives. It's unclear to them after a bit whether they have been together for a lifetime or only a few moments. The man's mother watches them dine in a restaurant, upset because she is convinced he is still a child who belongs at home with her. In this world where time can't be measured, there are no clocks or calendars or keeping of appointments. Time is kept rather by the color of the sky, or the feelings people feel. Anyone who attempts to quantify time is turned to stone.


This dream world echoes the dream world of 5 June 1905 in which time is a quality rather than a quantity. The narrator notes, "time exists, but it cannot be measured," since quality is subjective rather than objective. No one can say two moods are exactly the same or two sets of eyes perceive the same colors of the sunset. Yet as in the other dream world, this experience sets people apart. Their shared experience of time is isolating, and those who attempt to quantify it are punished. In that light this dream differs by offering punishment to those rebelling against the subjective nature of time. It's the human condition to want to share experiences, but when people cannot agree on the nature of their experiences they only feel more separate.

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