Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Einstein's Dreams | 20 May 1905 | Summary



In this world people have no memories. Shoppers walk among crowded booths at a market, seemingly unable to remember where to find items they bought yesterday. They consult maps to navigate the city they already live in, for they have no memories. At the end of their days they must look up their addresses so they can return home. Their families are strangers to them. To gain access to the past, people must consult books or documents; to know themselves people carry a Book of Life containing their personal history. Without it they are ghosts. Over time each person's Book of Life grows too large to read from start to finish. Some choose to read only the beginning, which makes them feel young; some read the end to understand who they have become. Some give up reading their Books altogether and abandon the past.


In this dream world Lightman once again links the perception of time to people's emotions. People in this world don't have an understanding of the past, and this largely makes them happy because to live in the present is to constantly notice its newness. People stay in love and marvel at the lives they have created. Those who stop reading the Book of Life and leave the past alone seem to be happier than those who obsessively read about their past. It's healthier and more freeing to be unchained from the past.

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