BEFORE long Professor Albert Einstein will leave our shores to return–home? In a literal sense he has no home, for the Nazi regime has made him an exile. But as the first citizen of the world his home is everywhere he chooses to live.
The people of this country are biding him farewell. Last week an unusual demonstration was held in Newark, presided over by the governor of the state and the mayor of the city, which was more than a demonstration of reverence for genius. It was an overflowing measure of affection for one whom all men of good will have come to regard as their big brother, their strong kinsman and their friend. The great outpouring of tribute-bearing men and women on this occasion as well as on all other occasions when Professor Einstein makes his appearance is due only in part to the fact that common folks have been taught to regard him as the foremost scientist of our age. They know, of course, that he has been placed among the select few of all time who are the intellectual builders of the world that his achievements have caused his name to be mentioned along with Euclid. Kepler. Copernicus. Galileo and Newton that scientists of world renown have proclaimed that he has given mankind a new conception of the physical universe and that philosoohers have acknowledged the revolutionary effect of his theories upon the whole realm of human thought. They are vaguely aware that a new impetus and a new direction have been given to man’s eternal quest for knowledge by the scientific revelations of this man whose quality of insight borders on divination and in whom scientific research has been blessed with the charism of artistic intuition.
But surely the multitude are not scientists and Einstein’s physics and mathematics and his theories of light, ether and motion are for them a closed book. Their warm admiration derives from the fact that they are not without a true understanding of the great humanity of the man and of the significance of his ethical personality to their age. They have followed gratefully the unfolding of his character in social action, the great human causes which he has championed, the high courage which he has displayed in the defense of the defenseless of the world and the light which he has given to a distraught and confused generation.
It is given to few men to become a legend in their own lifetime. Legends are the tribute which men pay to their heroes, and the embodiments of men’s dearest wishes. Einstein has become a legend in his own lifetime–the embodiment of the most precious hopes of a harassed and troubled age. Men have focused in him the cherished traditions of justice, freedom, peace and brotherhood which a resurgent barbarism threatens to overwhelm.
Albert Einstein represents for millions of men today the classic view of human life which through-out the ages has stressed the sovereignty of the human spirit, the sanctity of human life, the love of freedom and the ideal of international reconciliation. Up to the World War these were still generally regarded as the noblest ideals of civilization. But the war cast a blindness and a deafness and a viciousness upon the race. New voices–strident, discordant, bar baric voices of the jungle–have made themselves heard. Chauvinism, racialism, provincialism, war and hate are being hymned and extolled. Never was the world more fragmentized than it is today, more disintegrated economically, politically and, above all, spiritually. The youth of the world is being taught to eschew liberalism, democracy and internationalism as if these constituted blasphemy and treason to the human race. Everywhere youth is being indoctrinated with the belief in the imminence and the inevitability of the next war.
Dark indeed are the prospects of civilization and bitter indeed will be the struggle to save for civilization whatever can be saved of freedom, tolerance and brotherhood. In this struggle against the encroachment of the jungle upon the cultivated fields of the human mind and spirit, Albert Einstein has become in the eyes of millions the standard bearer, the wise and intrepid leader.
There is the same cosmic sweep to his social views as to his physical theories. His human sympathies are not halted at the frontiers of nation, race or religion. The same reach after cosmic unity, after an inclusive, unified world view of nature characterizes also his strivings for a spiritual unity of mankind, for a vision of the oneness of all human life. In this of course, he is decidedly within the great classic tradition of his people which long ago proclaimed the unity of God and of mankind.
Professor Einstein is a nationalist but he refuses to make a Moloch of nationalism and to sacrifice the noblest ideals of civilization upon its consuming altars. This has brought down upon him the bitter, vindictive hatred of all Junkers, militarists and reactionaries whose interests and prestige lie in keeping their peoples in political and economic subjection through the stratagem of militant patriotism.
Einstein hates war. He has led a crusade against the institution of war. “War,” he declared, “is low and despicable, and I would rather be smitten to shreds than participate in such doings.” Only once, when he was overwhelmed by the horrors of the Hitler regime, did his steady and steadfast vision falter for a moment. In his heroic advocacy of international peace, Albert Einstein has again demonstrated that he is a lineal descendant of the ancient prophets of Israel.
Professor Einstein, in an age of growing discontent and disillusionment with democratic government, has dared to remain loyal to the democratic dogma. He knows that there is no substitute for democracy, that men will not permanently prefer the will and whim of a despot to inalienable rights grounded in law over which neither majorities or minorities have the power of veto.
Professor Einstein has been a great Jew. His scientific greatness and his world acclaim did not estrange him from his people. The ominous rise of anti-Semitism after the World War and the desperate plight of his people forced him from the seclusion of his study into the arena of struggle. He understood quickly the futility of assimilation and the indignity and self-abasement involved in national and racial self-denial. He realized the need for a physical and spiritual center for Jewish life in Palestine and he became a Zionist. He has been a bulwark of strength to the movement and an inspiring figure in the Jewish renaissance.
Add to all this the humility of the man, his utter modesty bordering on self-effacement, and you have the key to the mystery of the amazing appeal of his personality to the imagination of the world.
This man, who has created for eternity, is now an exile from his home. The mad regime of the Brown Shirts would destroy him if he fell within its clutches. A. country where such a man cannot find a home and an honored place stands, of course, utterly convicted and shamed in the sight of the whole world. But Professor Einstein has built for himself a home in the hearts of the masses of the world, in the veneration of all seekers after truth and righteousness and in the affection of his people. His home is in the wide world of men. His abiding place is in the ages.
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