November 7, 2013

Life is like riding a bicycle…or maybe a horse, a wave, or an escalator...


“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
       Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
       German-born theoretical physicist 
       In a letter to his son Eduard Einstein, dated February 5, 1930
       Since this famous bicycle metaphor appears on many websites and in Facebook posts without any specific date or source, I wondered if it might be another one of the phony Einstein quotes that float around online. So, I emailed one of my favorite quote mavens, Dr. Mardy Grothe, and asked him. He said it was indeed a real quote and told me he cited the source in his new quotation database, Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations (an amazing resource for quotation buffs).
       As documented there, the origin of the popular saying is a letter Einstein wrote to his second son Eduard on February 5, 1930, while Eduard was studying medicine at Zurich University. In the book Einstein: His Life and Universe, author Walter Isaacson notes some other less-famous pieces of fatherly advice that Albert passed on in the letter. Commenting on the fact that Eduard had recently become enamored with an older woman, Albert suggested he should instead have a dalliance with some younger “plaything.” He also told Eduard he should get a job, saying: “Even a genius like Schopenhauer was crushed by unemployment.”
       The line about keeping one’s balance turned out to be sadly ironic. In 1930, Edward became increasingly imbalanced. Not long after he received his father’s “bicycle” letter, he abandoned his studies and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In 1932, Eduard was committed to a psychiatric sanatorium in Zurich, for the first of many times. He eventually died there in 1965, at the age of 55.


“Life is like riding a bicycle…As long as you keep pedaling, you won’t fall down.”
       Poster tagline for the movie Forest for the Trees (1998)


“Life is like riding a beautiful, wild stallion. You either throw yourself up in the saddle and ride the wind, or you let him bronc and throw you to the ground.”
       Alice Collins  
       American newspaper columnist
       From one of the humorous “Cookies ‘n Chaos” columns she wrote for Chicago-area newspapers, collected in the book
Cookies ‘N Chaos: A Selection of Reader's Favorites from the Past 25 Years (2006)


“Life is like riding a wave. One stupid mistake and its all over...but if u get it right it can be the ultimate high.”
       Anonymous Facebook post

       (Wikimedia Commons photo, from the page about “Big Wave Surfing.”)


“Sometimes, life is like riding an escalator. We stand fairly still and it just carries us along. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we’re trying to go in one direction and the path of travel is heading somewhere else.”
       Jonathan Cainer 
       Astrologer and author
       In the August 18, 2012 edition of his syndicated Daily Horoscope column. (From that day’s horoscope for people born under the sign of Leo.)


“Life is like riding a department store escalator which dismounts you on the floor of oblivion, which is right next to men’s shoes.” 
       Jimmy Jabroni 
       American humorist 
       In his book Everyday, Ordinary, Insane Life (2006) 
       (The “Escher Escalator” animated GIF is from
The Mighty Optical Illusions site)


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