I’ve been doing a little research on Albert Einstein for a short story I’m working on, and I discovered something odd. I had always heard the story that Einstein was a terrible student and failed most of his classes. Before he realized that E=MC² he was working as a lowly patent clerk. Since I was a slow learner and late bloomer, my teachers oftentimes told me this story, hoping it would motivate me. Perhaps I too would some day realize a crucial theory of physics…or not.
But this story, although enchanting, is simply not true. He always excelled in math and science, and published several essays in his teen years. The only reason why he was kick out of school was because he didn’t agree with the strict structure of some of his teachers; he didn’t think it was conducive for creative thinking. When he was a “lowly clerk,” he was actually in charge of reviewing patent applications for electromagnetics, a position that required great understanding of the field.
Einstein’s not the only myth we learn about. Van Gogh didn’t cut off his ear in a desperate act of passion for the woman he loved, he did to scare his studio mate, Gauguin, after a fight. However, there’s something much more romantic about the unstable artist doing something crazy for the woman he loves, rather than what actually happened.
Why do these myths get spread? Why do we cling onto them even after we hear the truth? It’s simple: We need our heroes to be flawed. We need to relate to them so that we can dream to become like them. As history shows, we don’t really care about the truth…we prefer a good story.
I was reading an article in the New Yorker about one of the many reasons why Mitt Romney is soooooooooo unrelatable. It said that most politicians have a story of redemption. They were alcoholics, they sinned, they smoked pot (but they didn’t inhale). In the end, God, or this country, or their strong women saved them. However, Romney doesn’t have a tale like that. He doesn’t have a story of overcoming doubt, and that is just not relatable for the average human. His most difficult challenge was when he lived in France and tried to convince people they shouldn’t drink wine. Big whoop.
With all the lies that Romney throws around you’d think he’d come up with a better myth. Not that I would ever put Romney on the same level as Einstein…or Big Bird.
- Lies and myths (bell-book-candle.com)
- Ann Romney Says It’s A “Myth” That Mitt Changes Positions, Blames Media (alan.com)
- Albert Einstein (pierreethier.wordpress.com)