Einstein’s Desk and Mine: A Sort of Comparative Analysis

Einsteins Desk

Albert Einstein’s office Ñ just as the Nobel Prize-winning physicist left it Ñ taken mere hours after Einstein died, Princeton, New Jersey, April 1955.


Having been the butt of derision and mockery for too many years for my “messy” desk (and office), I believe I have at last  found an effective remedy for silencing my many sneering critics once and for all. This despite the rise of those obnoxious “Tidy Up” books purporting to tell one how to clean up and organize every last post-it covered with IMPORTANT ideas for future reference as well as grocery store lists going back at least ten years. Coiled like a snake among the lines of these dangerous self-important “books” is the implicit promise to painlessly and effortlessly defenestrate one’s indoor habitat of all points of visual and intellectual interest, rough drafts of potential award-winning novels, important phone numbers, email addresses. Whew. Just thinking about all that crap makes me dizzy.

[Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The term was coined around the time of an incident in Prague Castle in the year 1618, which became the spark that started the Thirty Years’ War.]

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, by way of introduction, you will recall that it is a well known fact that writers and artists are sloppy slobs (a redundancy, so what? It’s called for). Disordered personal space is one of the chief signatures of the “artistic temperament.” It simply cannot be “improved” upon or otherwise corrected. It is as indelible and compelling as one’s DNA. Housekeeping is not a strong suit of the creative types of our species.  You can quote me on that.

The tidy freaks of this world are the common enemy of the artistic impulse. Everybody knows that. Chaos follows genius wherever it is inspired (key word) to go, ever careening and zig-zagging through the unexplored wilds of the universe. Nay, such is a veritable sign and irrefutable proof that one does indeed have great talent, and the bigger the mess that accompanies an artist, the greater the talent. For chaos is itself the womb of the masterpiece that nourishes and makes ripe the essential fecund circumstances for the birth of artistic masterpieces (begging your pardon, I may have already used that word two or three times in this sentence), if not seismic rearrangement of space/time.

Following me?

If we can agree on that, I can defend my customary (though not deliberate) office disarray as the normal consequence of my artistic labors and indicative of talent to some degree, however small. [See photo below]MYOFFICE2018

Some points of interest:

  • Given the drifts and piles of paper obscuring the surface of my desk (see photo above), it would appear that whatever my faults and short-comings when it comes to “genius,” (or talent), the work space of yours truly here (vis-a-vis my desk) seems to indicate that, if nothing else, I am the more “productive” or possibly experimental or possibly verbose, when viewed side by side with Einstein’s rather meager, puny drafts.
  • He was obviously parsimonious with words; it is clear I am not, often having more to say on any given subject than any given subject warrants.
  • When viewed side by side with the authentic in loco parentis of true genius, any point of comparison, however broad and lacking incontrovertible evidence, falls short. Have I made myself clear? I believe the forgoing substantially demonstrate that.
  • The really Big Brains among us would seem do most of their ruminating and cogitating inside the craniun, spurning paperly exegesis for the Internet, and leaving to others the miserable task of translating the complexities of the artists’  thoughts into the crude lingua franca of the hoi polloi, typing out mundane explanations of their break-through of the moment.
  • ? forgot what I was going to say . . . .
  • Professor Einstein’s desk has a serene subtle sense of order that mine lacks: His books are mostly stacked at right angles, his papers are gathered into sly stacks, implying that each stack has an underlying theme or a cohesive organizing principle.
  • The photograph of Einstein’s desk is in black and white, suggesting, or perhaps re-enforcing, the notion that his theories are as true as true can be, everything about them is black and white self-evident, while the snap of my magic carpet of a desk is a wild profusion of colors and shimmerings of light.
  • Though I cannot be sure at this far remove of space and time, I would wager, given the whirlwind antic profusion of color on  my desk and its surroundings versus the the stiff and grim setting of Einstein’s desk, that one would be hard pressed to find a book of poetry or set of earbuds on it.

Summation and conclusion to follow after I find some mumbling spaced out  genius to explain what all that blackboard chicken scratch behind the desk means.

Thank you for your time, fellow geniuses, and thank you, Albert Einstein, for sharing your space with us.

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
This entry was posted in Albert Einstein, Literature, Space and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Einstein’s Desk and Mine: A Sort of Comparative Analysis

  1. SD Gates says:

    To complete the comparison and really understand, requires photographic evidence, please!


  2. robert okaji says:

    Despite all evidence to the contrary, the state of my writing space indicates that I, too, am a genius!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Has anyone written a good poem on messiness?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert, you could write a haiku on it.I’d tape it to a wall right over the slippery sliding mass of 20 years of New Yorkers

    Liked by 2 people

  5. lahowlett says:

    Margaret, you and Professor Einstein make me feel SO much better about the state of my desk and home office. This made my day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: I May be a Genius | O at the Edges

  7. rothpoetry says:

    What may look like a mess to most may really be organized in the one who works there and knows exactly where everything is when you ask.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Whoops, make that Einstein did NOT win the Nobel for neatness

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Love this! Especially love the inviting 5th bullet … which could apply to any number of specifics on either of the two desks under focus.
    I promptly stood up to take an impromptu photo of my workspace [image of Einstein’s desk on my computer screen – thank you!] which becomes one more oddity in my “Still Life” photo file.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Send me the photo! Let’s see how truly messy you are and how much of a genius you are!


  11. Well, now. I can clearly see at least one way in which you (and Mr. Okaji, and I) are clearly superior to Mr. Einstein: That man had EMPTY BOOKSHELVES!!!!! What is wrong with him?!?!? Clearly not, as you say, the space of a writer. Tsk, tsk.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wait there, about the lack of color on Einstein’s desk, sure! it’s a black and white photo. And about the lack of books on the upper shelves, well, that photo was taken just as he died, it says. Maybe he took the books out with him to peruse when he gets bored in heaven… or… the cleaning lady is a poet. Who knows!


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