Curious, Flexible, and Jovial: A Portrait of Albert Einstein from “Dear Professor Einstein”

The book Dear Professor Einstein (2002) begins with a foreword by his granddaughter. The book starts out by portraying Einstein and his life and loves. It then goes on to collect letters to Einstein from children around the world–and Einstein’s response to each!

We find explicitly stated what we may now take for granted: Albert Einstein’s brilliance is found in his deep curiosity. As a boy, Einstein hated strict and rigid schooling. Thus, he thrived when he could study independently without being punished or disciplined harshly by teachers for, say, not answering a question quick enough.

Throughout his life, we see how he detested strict and rigid authority. He was even citizenshipless for a period of several years because, partly, he did not want to join the military as a young man.

Albert Einstein felt the irony that came with his success. He commented that it was ironic that he had become an authority when he hated authority.

The letters in the book, by kids all over America and the world, pose curiosity-filled questions to the famous man. He answers honestly, carefully, and gently, without being patronizing.

Einstein is sometimes known as the first media celebrity. His accomplishments became known during a time of a media revolution.

There are several lessons we take take from Albert Einstein.

First, while discipline, rigidity, and harsh structure may be necessary for some, a degree of flexibility is agreeable in personal character and organizational structure in order to achieve maximum creativity of thought.

Second, it is extremely admirable that Albert Einstein took all this time to reply to the questions of children. Many of us, whether academics or not, seek to rise in the ranks and get the utmost esteem of adult colleagues. Albert Einstein appears to have remained humble and, as they say, “kept it real.” He loved that children had a kind of curiosity and way of looking at the world with fresh eyes because Einstein himself managed to keep quite a bit of that in adulthood.

Third, if anyone deserves fame, it’s people like Albert Einstein. He stood for the oppressed, loved justice, and managed to stay fresh in thought all at the same time. He came to detest war so much that he advocated a one-world government to avoid conflicts.

Dear Professor Einstein reminds us that greatness isn’t the gratification of the personal ego. It’s honest, courageous in thought, and modest.

I lost 15 pounds by caring for myself.

I set out three months ago to eat healthier. I focused more on fruits, veggies and whole grains while limiting sugar and processed carbs. It’s not a strict diet. I have a sweet or two here and there. And that’s what makes my lifestyle different.

I am not starving myself. I eat a lot actually. I am not punishing myself or depriving myself. Instead, I am caring for myself.

In this world, and perhaps especially if you were brought up in a neglectful or abusive home, being cared for, including by yourself, is rare. And we are taught that beauty and fitness, too, must be punishments.

I set out to nourish my body. I haven’t even been exercising yet. I didn’t have a weight loss goal at all.

We typically think that we are in fact caring for ourselves if we eat the chocolate bon bons. However, what’s really caring for yourself is eating the apple.

I feel tons better. I think I happen to look better too. 

If you are interested in a rough, though not exact, estimate of how I have been eating, check out this CDC link.

Tips for Better Mental Health

Everyone has mental health. You don’t have to be diagnosed with schizophrenia to take care of it. If you take medications, continue to do so. I do. But there are some other things I’ve picked up over the years that foster mental wellness. Strike a balance in your life with them and I promise you will see improvement even if you have no diagnosis.

Social: take time, hopefully every day, to really connect with at least one or two people. It could be more. And if you are an introvert like I am, make sure you take some “me time”. You can use social media or texting if that’s what you have access to. Make sure you aren’t doomscrolling though! Have a conversation. Try to really connect. It could be family. It could be friends. But make some time for other people in your life.

Physical: invest in your body. You could exercise for a few minutes every day. You could start eating healthier. Or it could be you decide to take your prescribed medications or go to the doctor when you need to. Take time for your physical health.

Psychological: take time each day for personal growth and development. You could start each day by telling yourself that it’s going to be a good day to set a positive, healthy mindset. Think about what makes you tick or why you are the way you are. Think about family dynamics or traumas you experienced to work through them. As Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Really examine yourself and work toward health.

Values/Spiritual: healthy people have a strong sense of values, morals and/or spirituality. You may work to improve your moral standing. You may decide to stick up for people in a sense of justice. You may work to be a person of integrity. You may take time each day to pray. You may go to church, mosque or synagogue online or in person. You may decide to start voting for policies and people who encourage a healthy society. Take time to explore your values and work toward the good.

These are my tips. I use them for myself, I used them when I was a mental health case manager, and they were recommended to me by my counselor. It’s important to strike a balance and invest at least a little bit of time each day to every one of these. If you are deficient in one or more of these areas, you may need to purposefully schedule time to do the work. I started out several years ago with a daily tracking sheet. If you make time for each of these, you’ll see your mental health improve!

My Personal Letter from President Obama Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (10-17-2016)

Thank you for writing, and for your thoughtful input. As President, my greatest responsibility is ensuring the safety of the American people, including when it comes to our Nation’s energy infrastructure. My Administration is setting the highest possible standards for oil and gas production and transportation, and each day we are working to make sure our pursuit of energy resources does not put our communities at risk. That work includes steps the Army has committed to taking in light of important issues raised about the Dakota Access pipeline.

I understand the risks associated with the development and transportation of fossil fuels, which is why my Administration has overhauled Federal oversight and raised the bar on safety across the board. As part of our efforts to improve Federal permitting and review processes, we are making safe pipeline infrastructure a priority in order to help ensure the health and security of our communities and the environment.

As new energy infrastructure is developed, the Federal Government will continue working with State, local, and tribal governments—which play a central role in the siting and permitting of pipelines—to address the concerns of local communities. One of my priorities as President is upholding an honest and respectful relationship with Native American tribes, and we have made a lot of progress in restoring ancestral lands, waters, and sacred sites over the past 8 years. My Administration also remains committed to consulting with tribes to ensure meaningful tribal input is factored into infrastructure-related decisions across the Federal Government. In the weeks ahead, Departments and Agencies will meet with tribal leaders across the country in a series of formal consultations on this issue.

Again, thank you for writing. I hear you, and I am optimistic that together, we can grow our economy and create new opportunities while securing a cleaner and safer future for all our people.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Stand with Dreamers

A few years ago, I began organizing a peaceful rally to defend DACA recipients. I made the first moves, and then allowed other organizers to help out.

You can see coverage of the rally here.

I mentioned this to people who came to the event, but I wanted to note it here: I know at least one DACA recipient personally. My love and care for him was the start of my move for immigrant rights.

High School Memories

The other day, my mom was going through a box of papers. She found a note from my high school English teacher, Mrs. Orloff.

The note reads as follows:

“Dear Jennie

Thank you for the gift & the party. I will think of you often. You have challenged me to be a better teacher. I hope to go in a book store someday and see a stack of books by the famous author Jennie Lawson. Be good-be happy.

Mrs. Orloff”

I was close to my high school teachers. I attended a school for teen parents. Back then, it was called Teen Parent East. Now, it is called The Chiles Academy.

We had to fight for our education and the right to have a school that catered to our needs. Because of that, I got involved in politics at an early age. I will always thank my teachers for showing me how to advocate for myself and others.

The school had nutrition classes, parenting classes–in addition to regular classes in English, Math, etc. There was a daycare on site. I was able to breastfeed for two years because of that.

The school is now named The Chiles Academy after the late former governor Lawton Chiles, who visited our school and was supportive.

It is very important to have good teachers in your life. I am thankful that the vast majority of my formal educational experiences have been very positive.

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