Einstein on Love

Thoughts for Valentine's Day from the smartest person in the world.

Posted Feb 12, 2019

In July 1933, Frank Wall of 69-73 Fifty-Eighth Avenue in Long Island City received a curious letter. It was from Albert Einstein, to whom Mr. Wall, a reporter for the Long Island Daily Star, had recently written his own letter. Wall’s letter, addressed to the renowned professor at his retreat in Le Coq-sur-Mer, Belgium, went as follows:

I am sorry I cannot express this well enough in German. I understand the world moves so fast it, in effect, stands still, or so it appears to us. Part of the time, it seems, a person is standing right side up; part of the time on the lower side he is standing upside down, upheld by the law of gravitation; and part of the time he is sticking out on the earth at right angles and part of the time at left angles.  Would it be reasonable to assume that it is while a person is standing on his head—or rather, upside down—he falls in love and does other foolish things?

Apparently intrigued by Wall’s unusual question, the man responsible for the theory of relativity offered a brief but informative answer:

Very Honored Sir:

Falling in love is by no means the most foolish thing mankind does—but gravitation cannot be held responsible for that. With highest regards,

Albert Einstein

While falling in love may not have been the most foolish thing men and women did, according to one of the smartest people in the world, many at the time believed it was an imprudent and unwise path to take in life. Between the world wars in America, romantic love was popularly viewed in cautious if not downright negative terms, a function of the “modern” values that carried major cultural currency. “America appears to be the only country in the world where love is a national problem," wrote Raoul de Roussy de Sales in 1938, an indication of how challenging romance had become in the United States. Rather than pursue “true” love that typically led to marriage and family—the expression of the emotion that reigned in the late 19th century and early 20th century—many Americans, especially young people, were choosing to engage in romantic endeavors that did not carry the emotional, financial, and legal costs associated with traditional domestic life.  Others, however, perceived “free love” in its various forms as a genuine and serious threat to traditional love (two people embarking on a life together as a couple) and that which usually followed, with the very bedrock of society considered to be at stake in the matter. As well, popular culture, especially movies, had set too high a bar for real love, many agreed, this too contributing to disappointment in Americans’ romantic lives between the world wars. Whatever the cause, love had become a national problem, the solutions to which were not at all clear.

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