Einstein's Dreams | Study Guide

Alan Lightman

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Course Hero. "Einstein's Dreams Study Guide." March 30, 2017. Accessed October 23, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/.

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Course Hero, "Einstein's Dreams Study Guide," March 30, 2017, accessed October 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Einsteins-Dreams/.

Einstein's Dreams | 9 June 1905 | Summary

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Summary

In this world people can live forever. This means the population of each place is divided into "the Laters and the Nows." Laters don't see any sense of urgency or hurry to do much—go to college, get promotions, fall in love. Time is infinite, so why rush? Everything can be accomplished eventually. To act too hastily would be to risk making a mistake. The Nows, on the other hand, believe they must do all they can with their sense of an infinite life. They constantly change careers and lovers, and never slow down. But the two kinds have one thing in common: an infinite list of relatives. Nobody ever dies. And in this way no one is ever free. Some yearn for death so they might feel what it is to live.

Analysis

This dream world is the counterpoint to the dream world from 3 June 1905, in which people only live for a day. In this world people live forever, and so there is no deadline by which they need to "complete" their lives. Oddly this doesn't much change people's behavior in their own lives, though it does create another paradox symbolized by "the Laters and the Nows": to slow down and savor infinity or to accomplish as much as you can with your limitless days? The narrator notes few things are actually ever finished due to the infinite nature of people asking their ancestors for advice, and "such is the cost of immortality." In each of these dream worlds Lightman aims to show the consequences of living in its time structure, and here also shows the two opposing ways it can be dealt with. It seems ironic some would yearn for death, but implicit in this is the human need for boundaries and endings—to live forever does not mean one is free.

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