Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Einstein's Dreams | 11 June 1905 | Summary



In this world there is no future. Even though on the surface it appears to be like daily life, upon closer examination people are reluctant to part ways, and loneliness is permanent. Time ends in the present moment, and imagining the future is impossible. Therefore, each parting of ways feels like a death, and each person's loneliness feels infinite. As a consequence people cling to the present and don't understand the results of their actions. Some of them don't act at all; they simply lie in bed all day. Others don't care if their lives lead to no future; they choose to live their present to the fullest. Others become obsessed with the past.


This dream world emphasizes the way in which time's structure influences how people live their lives. Since there is no future, people are forced to live in the present. Yet rather than liberate people from the potential consequences of their actions, it causes them to "cling to the present as if hanging from a cliff." Each ending or parting of ways feels permanent, as do moods and emotions. Here Lightman points out a paradox: even though people are free from dealing with future consequences, they are trapped by the present and can find little meaning in symbols and causes they are presented with. Without a sense of a future ahead of them, nothing in their present seems to have any value.

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