Hemingway leaned back in his chair, rolled his eyes, and then suddenly shot forward. Placing his forearms on the table in front of him, his hands clasped together, he glared at Einstein.

“Are you crazy?” Hemingway asked. “You sit there and tell me that everything is chaos. That photons of light are scattered and haphazard and come at us in random bursts of energy, that they attach to atoms and molecules and are dispersed in some random and untraceable way. The only reason that order appears to happen is because our brains insist on it.”

Einstein glanced over at Hemingway but said nothing. Hemingway drummed on the tabletop. Einstein remained silent. Looking around for the waiter, Hemingway fidgeted in his chair. When he didn’t locate the waiter, he stood up and leaned over the table.

“Well,” he asked. With a blank look on his face, Einstein looked up at Hemingway. “For someone who has a reputation for genius, I think you’re quite mad.”

Einstein simply nodded, and Hemingway walked to the bar. Sitting on one of the bar stools, he ordered a beer. When the bartender returned with the beer, Hemingway said, “See that guy over there?” The bartender nodded. “He’s supposed to be one of the smartest guys in the world. Came up with this theory on energy. His theory of special relativity, he called it.”

The bartender looked over at the man sitting at the table in the corner. “So?”

“So?” Hemingway screamed at the bartender. “That’s all you can say?”

“What do you want me to say?” asked the bartender. “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’.”

Hemingway gulped down his beer, walked back to the table, and sat down. He glared at Einstein for several minutes before he said, “There has to be more to it than that. What does it mean, this theory of special relativity?”

“I’ve been working on another part of the theory, one that might make more sense to you,” Einstein said. “You see, when mass is converted into energy under great pressure, strange things begin to happen. In special relativity, I came up with a mathematical equation that concludes that at the speed of light squared, mass produces an incredible amount of energy. Do you see this quarter on the table?”

Hemingway looked down at the quarter. “Sure. You gonna make it disappear?”

“No, nothing like that,” Einstein began, “I was only going to say that under a tremendous force, this quarter could be converted into enough energy to light up the East Coast for a year.”

Hemingway leaned back in his chair, pondering what Einstein had said. Finally, he leaned close to Einstein and said, “Then why don’t you do it? I’ll give you a fistful of quarters.”

“Well, it’s not that simple. But what I was going to say is that everything can be reduced to mathematics. If we could just do the math correctly, we could know everything there is to know about the universe. Because it is so vast, it is the only way to know the universe. The problem is, what interferes with the mathematics, what I just can’t get clear in my head is that the speed of light is the same no matter how it is observed, but space and time are different. They are not constant but interwoven into a single continuum that I call space-time. Simultaneous events as seen by one observer could occur at different times from the perspective of another observer. Time itself is relative. Time moves differently for objects in motion than for objects at rest. The speed of light, however, as observed by anyone anywhere in the universe, moving or not, is always the same.”

“Are you saying that this moment doesn’t exist in real-time?” Hemingway asked.

“Something like that. It is possible that this moment might have already occurred or might occur in the future if seen by another observer,” Einstein said. “We can’t be sure anything exists if it isn’t observed, of course, but what is interesting is where along the space-time continuum an event is observed. This is variable because time isn’t linear. It loops around itself, it coils and unravels and coils again. So, at any given point in its existence, depending on when it is observed, an event can occur here but also there.” Einstein pointed left and then right.

“What I’m trying to say is that instead of three dimensions, there are four, which includes time. We can’t think of space as separate from time. They are interwoven into a fabric, and in traveling through this fabric, light is twisted and bent, which means time and space are twisted and bent. Massive objects cause distortions in space-time, bending space, in the same way that a bowling ball in the center of a trampoline pulls at the fabric. The presence of any material object (or energy itself) could bend space and alter the flow of time. For instance, I believe that a light ray from a distant star deviates from a straight line as it passes by the sun.”

“And this is measurable?” Hemingway asked.

“In a vacuum, light will behave predictably. But unleashed in the universe, photons are attracted to atoms and molecules, and these attractions wreak havoc on what can or cannot be measured. Once light has been produced, it will travel in a straight line until it hits something else. Or is disturbed by space-time. Once it hits another surface or any particle, it is then absorbed, reflected, scattered, refracted, or transmitted. It behaves in many unpredictable ways. Thus, energy and chaos.”

Hemingway sat back in his chair, looking around, and then leaned in close to Einstein. “So, what’s the point?”

“The point?” asked Einstein.

“Yeah, what’s the point of it all?”

“The point is mathematics. Find the right equation, and the chaos will be redeemed. The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. There is a pattern in creation. We just need to find the right equations. If we knew the math, we could measure the loops of time.”

“I kind of like the chaos, and the idea of an unpredictable universe. It gives us an excuse. I wouldn’t want anyone to find the equation to smooth over the chaos,” Hemingway said, still leaning across the table.

“My friend, you can’t hide from mathematics. It is everywhere. Everywhere you look you’ll see mathematics. In nature, in the twist of a pine cone, in the veins of a leaf, in the stars, in asteroids that race across the arc of space, in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and in the tiniest particles, mathematics swirls all around us. Even in our tears, one finds mathematics.”

“And in love?” Hemingway asked.

“In love especially. Love is a force stronger than atomic energy, but the mathematics are, like Pi, irrational, a decimal with no end and no repeating pattern, yet a number that occurs in many things, the motion of a pendulum, the vibration of strings, the currents of electricity.”

“The dilemma of love,” Hemingway suggested.

“Yes,” Einstein agreed. “Love is a never-ending arc. A vibration of the heart. The alternating currents between two lovers. And what about you, my friend? How is love for you?”

“Chaos,” Hemingway said with a broad smile. “Pure hell and chaos. I left all my love behind in Paris. Now Paris, there’s a city of mathematics.”

Einstein looked across the table at Hemingway, who stared into space.

“Here’s one way to look at it. Space-time tells matter how to move; matter tells space-time how to curve,” Einstein said. “It is with love, too. The heart tells the mind where to go; the mind bends to the heart’s will.”

“In Paris, my heart was carefree and love poured like wine,” Hemingway said. “The wine was good and love was better. If love was bent, it was bent in a good way.”

“According to relativity, love has to bend, whether in a good way is up to you,” Einstein said. “When you are in love and with the one you love, holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes, or deep in the throes of passion, every hour seems like a second. On the other hand, when you are in front of your typewriter, your mind as blank as the sheet of paper in front of you, every second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

“I’ve been there before, tortured by my weaknesses. All I want at that moment is to write one sentence. Write the truest sentence that I know. And mean it. And when it doesn’t come, I question whether anything is true.”

“To know what is true and what isn’t, this is the hardest thing,” Einstein said. “And to believe in it. In a chaotic universe, it is hard to believe in anything because everything can be said to be unreliable. I have lived too long, and living has made me pessimistic. When I fight like hell to remain optimistic, I have finally come to believe that reality is merely an illusion. It might be said that nothing is true, or everything is true. You can choose what you believe. They come to the same thing.”

“You know Einstein, I like you, but you live too much in your head,” Hemingway said.

“And you, my friend, live too much in your heart. But that isn’t a bad thing.”

“My heart, this is the most unreliable thing that I know,” Hemingway said. “It tortures me constantly. I can’t fill this giant hole that is inside of me. And the more I try to fill it, the larger it becomes.”

“This hole you speak of is inside all of us,” Einstein said. “In some, it is felt more deeply. This too is relativity. I can look at another human being and see that he is sad, but I will never know the depths of his sadness. I can also see happiness in someone, but I will never know the heights of this happiness. This is the tragedy of life. This mysterious, glorious hole inside each of us.”

“Happiness is bullshit,” Hemingway said. “Nothing good comes from happiness. No art or science worth a damn comes from happiness. It comes from anger and rage, the anger and rage that comes from the blue fog. If you want to live, truly live, you have to get angry at the damn inequities in life. You have to rage against sentimentality and mediocrity.”

“It is a sad thing, but I believe that science has slipped into complacency. We change the mathematics to fit the theory. Physicists talk about a particle’s wave function, for instance. This is a mathematical representation used to describe the probability that a particle exists at a certain location at a certain time with a certain momentum. The problem is that this is only an equation, and the equation is a prediction of where the particle might be, when in reality, it can be here, or over there, two places at the same time. So where is it?”

“Hmmm…and this bothers you?” Hemingway asked.

“My friend, since the universe is made up of so much empty space, if we can’t think of particles as having predictable mass and motion, then we are lost, and we’ll all slip into madness.”

“But madness isn’t such a bad thing. All creative endeavors are forms of insanity. If you are going to go deep inside of yourself to pull out the seed of creativity, you’re going to suffer madness.”

“Maybe this madness is a sign that something does exist,” Einstein said. “Something outside of ourselves. A life force. A supreme being.”

“I don’t believe in God,” Hemingway said.

“But the question is, does He believe in you?” Einstein said.

“Well, that is his business, not mine,” Hemingway said.

“Still, it is something you have to come to grips with, or else this seed inside of you will consume you,” Einstein said. “It really isn’t so complicated. Besides, the story is a good one, even if it has no basis in truth. In fact, I like the story better as fiction than fact. It has more to offer as fiction. To think that a group of human beings could create such a story of hope is remarkable.”

“Or an act of desperation,” Hemingway said. “My life is a mess, and no amount of hope is going to change that. We are all doomed. No story about redemption or salvation will help us.”

“I think you’re wrong, my friend,” Einstein said. “Redemption is an act of releasing us from ourselves. Part of living is to make mistakes. Often our actions harm other people. Does this mean we are bad people? I don’t believe this is the case. As it is often stated, we are just human. And humans are fragile. And we must feel our way along a narrow and dangerous path. Sometimes we get off the path, but this is forgivable since it is a stormy world in which we live and it is hard to see the path clearly. There are many distractions along this path and many ways in which we can stray. The artist, however, chooses to leave the path deliberately because he is enthralled by the danger. Something inside both the artist and the scientist feeds their need to explore that which hasn’t been explored before.”

“I am driven by my fear of boredom, nothing more,” Hemingway said. “I can’t stand the status quo. Or anything that is thought to be normal. Normal consists of the rules made by those who are comfortable there. I’m not. And religion is made up of these rules.”

“But we are not talking about religion,” Einstein said. “We are talking about God. And God and religion are not the same thing. Some people indeed find comfort in religion, but their study of God is a personal thing.”

“What if God exists, but he doesn’t care?” Hemingway asked.

“I’ve heard the argument of an indifferent God before, but it has never made much sense because just like us, God wouldn’t be indifferent all of the time,” Einstein said. “I don’t have a problem with a God who is indifferent some of the time because that allows us to get into mischief. But when it comes down to the essence of things, He is there, I can assure you.”

Hemingway looked over his shoulder at the bartender, who was wiping off the bartop with a dish towel. “Do you see that man over there?” Hemingway asked. Einstein nodded. “Do you think he cares?”

“Cares?” Einstein asked.

“Yeah, do you think he cares about us? Do you think he gives a damn about what we’re talking about?”

“He doesn’t have any reason to care because he is not involved in our discussion,” Einstein said.

“Precisely, he is not involved in our discussion. In fact, he isn’t involved in either of our lives, so why should he care what we are discussing? Or what happens to us once we leave this café? Right? He is no different than God. Rather, he is more involved than God since he is there. I can see him. And if I need his assistance, I can call for him. I have called for God on many occasions, and not once did he come to my aid. Not once. In my life, God either doesn’t exist or he doesn’t care.”

“Perhaps He came to your aid, but you were unaware of His assistance,” Einstein said.

“Perhaps,” Hemingway said. “But if his aid didn’t change the outcome of the situation, then what’s the point?”

“The point is that things happen, all around us all the time, things that we’re unaware of, things we can’t see, things the meaning of which we can’t grasp,” Einstein said. “And this is nature, this is God’s universe. It isn’t meant to be understood, but to be marveled at. Would you rather sit in a square room with white walls? You would understand the nature of this room, but there isn’t anything there at which to marvel. God is mystery and magic. He inspires us. He leaves us speechless. And we should be grateful that He gives us a universe that we can’t fully grasp.”

“Why call this God?” Hemingway asked. “And why worship him?”

“Why worship Him? I would argue that there is no greater thing than God, so why wouldn’t I worship Him?”

“My wife, well, my former wife, it didn’t go so well,” Hemingway began. “When I knew it was over, once I saw the signs, I began a letter to her. The signs come to me quite unexpectedly, but they are undeniable. They drive me to the point of insanity. When she reads the letter, she’ll deny its authenticity. She won’t deny that I wrote it but challenge that I meant what I wrote. When one is in love, it is natural to deny that the object of one’s love doesn’t feel the same way. And it isn’t that I don’t love her anymore, but that the blue fog has come over me and I can’t get out from underneath its heavy weight. When the blue fog overcomes me, I am forced to leave. I never know at first where I intend to go, but it becomes obvious to me that I must leave. It is the only way.”

Einstein stared across the table at Hemingway, but Hemingway avoided his stare, looking instead at the tabletop. When he finally looked up, he wanted to say something meaningful, to tell Einstein that what a man does makes no difference since a man is a small thing, not even a ripple in an ocean.

“This decision to leave is never well thought out or designed,” Hemingway continued, “rather it is impulsive and ends with regret. But it is like a man dying of thirst who comes upon a foul, stagnant pond. He doesn’t stop to consider the dangers but drinks without regard for his life. His thirst overcomes any thought of reason. Afterward, in writhing pain and stomach spasms, he vomits out the vile, disgusting water. I will suffer for my spontaneous, uncontrollable urge to write the letter, just as I would suffer from drinking from the dangerous, stagnant pond, but what choice do I have?”

Einstein listened carefully to Hemingway’s story, staring off into space, seeming not to be listening at all. When Hemingway paused, Einstein looked at him with soulful eyes but didn’t say anything. Hemingway looked around uncomfortably, considering standing up to give Einstein some time to contemplate what he had shared with him. Einstein remained quiet, lost in thought. When he could no longer stand it, Hemingway stood up and walked to the bar, where the bartender was busy putting away glasses that he’d just washed.

“Can I get another beer?” Hemingway asked the bartender.

“Sure,” he said and turned to the tap. The glass was filled to the brim with a full head, just the way the bartender knew Hemingway liked it. He set the beer in front of Hemingway, who gave the bartender a wide smile.

“You know, Ferny, you’re about the only guy who knows me,” Hemingway said. “I mean, really knows me. One of the smartest guys in the world is sitting across the table from me, and I tell him all about my predicament. You know, the same predicament I always get into when I get bored with the woman I’m with. It happens every time. I can’t stand to be with the same woman for more than a few months. I don’t know what happens, but I get hit with this damn blue fog and, to get out from underneath it, I pack my bags and leave. You understand, right? A guy can’t live under this thick fog. He needs to see the sunlight. Am I right?”

“Sure,” Ferny said. “You can’t live under a fog all the time. Hell, you’d turn into a nematode.”

“What the hell is a nematode?” Hemingway asked.

“You know, a nematode, those bugs that crawl around at night, like the one Kafka wrote about.”

“You mean a cockroach. Kafka’s story was about a giant bug.”

“Well, you know what I mean,” Ferny said.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Hemingway said. “And you might be the only guy who when he says something I do know what he means.”

Hemingway took a long sip of his beer and walked back to the table, where Einstein sat lost in thought. When Hemingway sat down at the table, Einstein looked over at him and asked, “Does this need to leave ever stop?”

“No, how would it stop?” Hemingway asked, relieved to know that Einstein had been listening to him.

“Maybe it comes from a need to write,” Einstein suggested. “Perhaps you confuse your creative urges with sadness and restlessness. And the stagnant pond. Perhaps you are stuck, your creative juices dried up. But this is only temporary, and the juices will flow again. You know this from experience and shouldn’t be too concerned.”

“Concerned? The hell I shouldn’t. This is the only thing that keeps me alive. Without my juices, I would wither into nothingness. No, I can’t be concerned enough.”

“But surely you’ve had these periods of creative futility before,” Einstein said. “Weren’t they temporary? Didn’t your creative juices always begin flowing again?”

“But one never knows,” Hemingway argued. “I can’t be sure that one day everything will stop and I won’t be able to write another word.”

“If that should happen, then you must be satisfied with what you have written up to this point. Isn’t this enough?”

“Enough,” Hemingway yelled, slamming his fist on the table. “How can it be enough? I have barely begun. And what about you? Would it be enough for you? Can you ever say that what I’ve done is enough?”

“Yes, I can,” Einstein said. “Have I solved the riddle of the universe? No. But it will never be solved. No more than God will ever be understood. It could be that the puzzle is solved when we die. This is certainly worth pondering, I think, and I find some satisfaction in believing this is the case. It doesn’t relieve me of my desire to search for more answers while I’m still alive, however. Up until the final moment of my life, I hope my mind is actively looking for answers. I don’t even worry so much if the answers are right or wrong. I believe that everything that I’ve written will be shown to be wrong in time. The universe is that complex.”

Hemingway looked over at Einstein, who suddenly looked old and worn out. A deep sadness overcame Hemingway when the thought came to him that he too must look old and worn out. And the thought that even his stories had grown old and stale depressed him further. The only stories that will remain fresh and interesting are the ones that were never written.

“What are you thinking, my friend?” Einstein asked.

Hemingway looked up from his beer, at first unable to respond because he couldn’t recall what he’d been thinking. Thoughts raced through his mind, thoughts going back to his life as a young man in Paris. Were these his happiest memories? Most likely. But the earlier memories are always the happiest because they are less encumbered. Finally, Hemingway said, “I was thinking about an earlier time in my life before the blue fog overcame me. A time of youthful exuberance. But now a time of great sadness, too. Even then, I knew I would grow old and tired and so would my stories. I had some good stories then because I lived boldly. Now, I am too cautious. I am my worst enemy. I along with the ghosts who visit me every night.”

“I am also visited by ghosts at night. They keep me awake with their constant questions. When are you going to figure this out? they ask me. When are you going to do something useful? They are real nuisances with their constant questions and finger-pointing. Yet, I don’t know how to answer their questions. And what is worse is that in the light of day, I see that their accusations are true. Growing old isn’t easy. The scars of life begin to chafe, and, what’s even harder to accept, they begin to upset one’s conscience, like bacteria upsets the stomach.”

Hemingway took a long drink from the glass of beer, wiping his upper lip with the sleeve of his shirt. He could see that he’d stirred up something inside of this great man. If Einstein suffered from regrets, what chance did he have? No chance. From the first moment of consciousness, we are doomed to remorse and disappointment. Maybe this is the redemption that Christians talk of. How do we redeem ourselves? Or how do we reconcile our lives with our consciousness? In the end, we have only the black hole inside of us, the emptiness of a life half lived.

Hemingway, looking over at Einstein, knew that this man wouldn’t be with us for much longer and this made him sad. This kind of greatness can’t be replaced. His death would leave not only a large hole inside of him, but his death would leave a large hole in the universe. To save the universe from this despair, Hemingway was willing to give up his disbelief in God. God alone might spare the universe from the despair Einstein’s death would leave behind. Hemingway thought that he could try, that if he made an effort to believe and then wrote it down, that once it was written, it became real.



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