Two notes about happiness from Albert Einstein, previously unknown to researchers, have re-appeared nearly a century after they were written and have been auctioned for a combined $1.8 million.
Einstein wrote the notes in November 1922, during a six-week lecture series in Japan. During his trip, he learned that he had been awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics. As a result of the ensuing publicity, thousands of people came to Tokyo to catch a glimpse of Einstein or attend one of his lectures. Einstein was embarrassed by the attention.
While staying at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, a courier visited Einstein with a delivery. Then, the courier either refused Einstein’s offer of a tip (which would align with local custom) or Einstein had no pocket change for one.
But Einstein wanted to leave something with the courier, so he grabbed a couple pieces of hotel stationery and wrote him two notes. The first: “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” And the second: “Where there's a will there's a way.” Einstein told the courier that, if he was lucky, the notes might someday be worth more than a tip.
Also see: 6 habits of happy and successful people
A Jerusalem auction house sold the note about happiness this week for $1.56 million and the second note for $240,000. The seller and buyers have chosen to remain anonymous, but reports suggest the seller is a grandson of the courier’s brother.
Some see Einstein’s notes as reflections of his thoughts on winning the Nobel Prize, but it’s difficult to confirm that, says Roni Grosz, an archivist who manages the Einstein archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But, he adds, the notes do help us understand the personal life of the physicist.
“What we’re doing here is painting the portrait of Einstein—the man, the scientist, his effect on the world—through his writings,” says Grosz. “This is a stone in the mosaic” (Bilefsky, New York Times, 10/25; Siegel, Washington Post, 10/24; AFP/Japan Times, 10/22; Wamsley, NPR, 10/25).
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