2 8 8 D O C U M E N T 2 7 4 M A Y 1 9 2 6 274. From Eduard Einstein Zurich, 1 May [1926][1] Dear Papa, I thank you for your letter.[2] It pleased me greatly. However, I have forgotten most of what was in it, and Mama has traveled to Yugoslavia for a few weeks,[3] and it is in her locked desk. I particularly liked your metaphor of the hen and the duck egg.[4] I believe that the feelings that you have when you think about me can be compared quite well with those of a hen that has hatched a particularly large egg with a great deal of effort and, now, to its horror, realizes what a quacking and awk- ward being it has brought forth. But, so it goes in life. I also remember that you wrote that one ought not take oneself and other people too seriously. That totally struck a chord with me. I find that one should always remember the fact that hu- mans are only one of an infinite number of living creatures that the Earth has al- ready produced, that they will only be here for a relatively short time, and that their entire history, their progress is completely insignificant and indifferent. And all the more so, those of the individual human being. I think that this belief can comfort one more in hours of distress than, e.g., the problematic belief in a God who benef- icently steers destinies. I also think that the significance of the brain is very much overrated. For the philosophers assert that there is a spiritual world above the sen- sory world. One could imagine a being which, disregarding all other organs, has evolved a gigantically large pair of eyes and now asserts that there is, beyond the world that one feels and smells, a visible world. And it stops bothering with any- thing else at all and attempts, with the help of its eyes, to notice ever smaller objects. It calls these efforts science. It calls other efforts of a similar type “art.” Whoever spends his entire life with such efforts, of him it is said that he fulfilled the highest purpose in life. Finally, the remaining organs atrophy and the entire organism gets out of balance. That’s the way it is with us humans. We need only consider how strange the state of perfect health, in other words, the only natural state, has become to us! I don’t want to preoccupy myself too long with such a deep philosophical sub- ject. I probably understand very little of it. Perhaps not more than the teachers who bore us to death day after day with their shallow drivel.[5] Moreover, one must be cautious with regard to you, for you are obviously above my primitive thoughts. At times, it is enjoyable to have such an exalted father. For example, my math teacher always gives me a grade of 6 because he thinks if I don’t ¢very² often raise my hand, I consider myself too good for that. He thinks I must necessarily be as gifted as you. At times, it is rather unpleasant to have such an exalted father. One considers one- self so insignificant.
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