Apparently in an interview, Einstein once said, “The most important question that any person can ask is whether or not the universe is friendly place?” He went on to say “The answer we find determines what we do with our lives. If the universe is a friendly place, we will spend our time building bridges. Otherwise, people use all their time to build walls. We decide.”
There is a cognitive bias called the Halo Effect that says we tend to believe that people whom we admire can do no wrong. Einstein is recognized as one of the smartest people to ever live. His quote resonates with us. But does it resonate on its own or does it resonate because of the Halo Effect? As these are the words of Einstein, they must be true, right? I wonder if Einstein ever said anything really dumb in his lifetime. On the contrary how many really dumb people have said incredibly wise things, but we pay no attention because we believe dumb people only say dumb things. Who decides who is smart and who is dumb anyway?
As for me there are times when I believe I say and do really smart things. There are also times when I do or say really dumb things. No halo here. Sometimes I think what I’m doing or saying is really smart, then later decide it was dumb after all. The opposite can also be the case. A dumb mistake can sometimes turn out to be an incredible growth point.
Einstein’s question is a good one. Is the universe friendly or not? The answer leads to another answer for the next question which is, “am I a bridge builder or a wall builder?” That answer reveals a deep-seated belief. For me I think that the universe is a friendly place but not all of the time. Bridge building seems like the best way to go. Yet there is probably a time and a place for walls. If an army is planning to attack your village, then perhaps a wall is a better option. Although I do sometimes wonder if the village fully trusted that the universe was a friendly place and built a bridge instead of a wall, what would happen then? Does this mean that I haven’t fully committed to my beliefs? That I don’t know for sure whether the universe is friendly or not? Must I decide?
In my experience most people aren’t asking these important questions, which ultimately lead a person to investigate their own deepest, inner beliefs. I wonder if an even more important question might be, “Am I willing to look at and perhaps challenge my most deeply rooted beliefs?” A yes to this question is scary and deep, yet it offers the first glimpse at the seeds of self-awareness and the key to enlightenment.