PROFESSOR ALBERT EINSTEIN
ALLEGEDLY COMMITS A CRIME
AND OF THE DIFFICULTY OF FINDING A JURY OF
The idea of being tried by "A Jury Of One's Peers,"
Which as we all know is the pillar & pride of our American
system of jurisprudence, among others,
Is of course a nice idea, & fine!
--But what if, during his later lifetime, a crime had allegedly been committed
by the late, great, Professor & genius, Dr. Albert Einstein?
Yes! What if, say, around 1950--while trying to hammer out the final
"Einstein's Theory of Relativity";
Which for the greater good of Humankind, definitively expanded Humanity's
view of the entire Universe (!);
& With the good Doctor in a exceedingly excited state, perhaps virtually
bordering on the hysterical
Einstein had committed what some people just might theoretically
some people just might not theoretically consider--
To be Manslaughter or (heaven forbid!) even Murder?
Yes! What if, at some crucial Inspirational Moment, Professor Einstein
had became uncharacteristically impatient with some inept assistant
who carelessly spilled a cupful of coffee all over a pageful of highly significant footnotes,
Thus distracting that great sage & scientist &--simply by interrupting him at a crucial moment--
thus preventing him from making a climactic "Quantum Leap";
--& What if Professor Einstein had then, in disgust, irately tossed
into the air, in the general vicinity of that assistant's head
Thus by accident alas badly denting it (the clip-board); & alas
just in passing, also severely damaging that poor man's nose;
& What if later on (perhaps partly due to a medical misdiagnosis by some
short-sighted, third-rate physician who pooh-poohed the injury
& prescribed only just enough aspirin to stop a headache),
That poor man had overnight, gone & bled to death?
--The quality of even our most extraordinary "Blue Ribbon Juries"
I wonder how our American legal system or legal system in any other Democracy would like to try
Taking something like that one on for size?
In that particular case, the selection of jurors of course, would
have had to continue
for months, if not for years & years
In order to find for Prof. Einstein the necessary "jury of his peers"!;
--The likes of Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Robert Oppenheim, William de
& probably the ghosts of Galileo & Isaac Newton as well,
Would surely have had to have been among the peers to sit on that particular panel!
Of course, with respect to the gentle, mild-mannered Professor Einstein,
the situation described above is purely hypothetical!;
& as I've said is also historically unfactual;
& Besides being somewhat preposterous too is perhaps even somewhat
impish & rather darkly playful
--I'm aware for example that given a little luck, it might have been thought
up by any
reasonably intelligent & speculatively-minded 12-year-old
who wasn't brought up to think like a sheep
Or, perhaps (come to think of it!) by any speculatively-minded & reasonably intelligent
12-year-old who was brought up to think like a sheep
Yet who managed somehow, to discount it.
Still, sometimes I truly wonder: What about the handling in Court
by either a less-than-enlightened Judge or your average Jury,
of really Exceptional Individuals, generally?
--After all, it's one thing for kids in the U.S.A. today to sit around
under watchful educational eyes
In, say, falling-apart chairs at, say, the deteriorating desks
of some of the alas less than adequate Public Schools
we can (double alas), still find here today in the U.S.A.;
& Under the direction of some hugely-over-burdened, harried,
yet doubtless fundamentally well-meaning grade-school-teacher
intent on upholding at all costs The American System of Public Grade-School Education
(even when mediocre), & of everything else in our modern times which may still be
old-fashioned & outmoded;
& For those kids to write pious essays loaded with all kinds of misspellings
glorifying how--so as to make sure that some relatively ordinary
alleged miscreant in some relatively commonplace legal case,
received something like "a really fare trial"--
John Doe or Joe Schmoe was duly tried by "The Butcher" & "The Baker"
& "The "Candlestick-Maker";
& It's another thing to imagine our--& most other legal systems
for that matter--
even starting to deal appropriately with a genius of the caliber of an Einstein
Who--if accused of an alleged crime
Should surely not to be tried by "The Butcher" & "The Baker" & "The Candlestick-Maker"
--but instead (to say the very least!)
By "The Anthropologist" & "The Sociologist" & "The Psychologist" & "The Astrophysicist"
--Unless of course The Astrophysicist happened to be one of those
short-sighted, envious types of non-entities whom you & I have met
Who'd like to see an Einstein condemned in any event,
Just to get rid of "The Professional 'Competition'"....
Yes, sometimes I truly wonder: What about the dilemma in Court.
Trialwise or otherwise, of anyone who happens to be Unusual or Exceptional;
& Who, if your average anti-intellectual, envy-prone & parochially-thinking person
had much to say about it--
Might have to go to jail & spend the rest of his or her life there
--Whether or not formally charged with wrongdoing!
--Or who, worse yet, might even be deemed fit for summary Execution
When beheld in the dimly-viewing eyes of those people whose tolerance
of inventiveness or originality or creativity in other people
(& Indeed tolerance of the splendid diversity of American citizens in general)
Can prove to be so utterly zilch & nil,
That even so ordinary an individual as I, find it scary!
--Yes!:in practical terms, what often happens then, I wonder,
to those really fine Federal Judicial concepts
Which say that, in America for example & in a Court of Law, all people are entitled
right off the bat, to "The Benefit of The Doubt"
& That its up to accusers to bear "The Burden Of Proof"
& Which therefore implies strongly that people aren't supposed to be thought poorly of,
or be disapproved of, or viewed with Prejudice beforehand
much less be regarded as automatically guilty
Until such time as they may--just may--be proven not innocent!
--But to return to our exceptionally rare & unusual Albert Einstein:
with him, also to be taken into account is the fact that (aside from being a genius & all that)
Professor Einstein, like many other Professors in their later years whether absent-minded or not,
had the habit of garbing himself quite often quite "comfortably" in highly informal or even old & worn-out clothing,
even including sometimes, rather moth-eaten sweaters
So that he sometimes resembles--in his later photographs especially--
A rather wrinkled, worn-out & disreputable old dufflebag;
& Of course, as we know, most people tend not to think so well of a man or a woman
If they even dare to dress in a way thats unusual, or which happens not to impress others
--That is to say, by not sporting for example, recently shined shoes; a clean white shirt;
A neatly pressed dark suit & a bright (or better yet) brand new tie....
Professor Einstein Allegedly Commits a
Crime is a long poem about Law. Also re Creativity, scientific
inspiration, distractions to genius,
& misunderstanding of exceptional people to the point of depriving such people of their Civil Rights & disenfranchising them.
In other words, addition to being about genius at work, it's about the limitations of conventional , short-term thinking in general when evaluating rare & unusual people--in the arts, the sciences, or any other field in which work of long-standing significance can be done. Written in the early 90's, poem first appeared in 1999 in The Paris Review #151, © l999 Michael Benedikt.
Webversion © 2004 by Michael Benedikt.
Next Poem At This Site--'A Professor Of Practicality'
Home Page of 'The Thesaurus & Other New Verse'