On Magic Realism
There are absolute masterpieces that move us intensely: Mozart’s Requiem; Homer’s Odyssey; the Sistine Chapel; King Lear. To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty.…
Einstein’s jewel, the general theory of relativity, is a masterpiece of this order. I remember the excitement I felt when I began to understand something about it. It was summer. I was on a beach at Condofuri in Calabria, immersed in the sunshine of the Hellenic Mediterranean, and in the last year of my university studies. Undistracted by schooling, one studies best during vacations.
I was studying with the help of abookthathadbeengnawed at the edges by mice, because at night I’d used it to block the holes of these poor creatures in the rather dilapidated, hippyish house on an Umbrian hillside where I used to take refuge from the tedium of university classes in Bologna. Ever so often I would raise my eyes from the book and look at the glittering sea: it seemed I was seeing the curvature of space and time imagined by Einstein.
As if a friend was whispering into my ear an extraordinary hidden truth, suddenly raising the veil of reality to disclose a simpler, deeper order. Ever since we discovered that the Earth is round and turns like a mad spinning-top, we have understood that reality is not as it appears to us: every time we glimpse a new aspect of it, it is a deeply emotional experience. Another veil has fallen.
From “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics”