Theory of Relativity – A Monk’s explanation to a Physicist

Once upon a time, there were two friends who went to university to obtain doctorate in Physics.

Both of them were meritorious scholars and wanted to explore the hidden depths of the laws of nature, particle and motion. One of the scholars took deep interests in theory of relativity while the other scholar realized that all of this is vague. He left his doctorate and became a wandering monk, searching for truth.

The wandering monk went south. He traveled across the country, went on to sleep with beggars, visited different pilgrimages and lived the life of an ascetic. He never married, never worked for money, had no purpose in life and always wandered across looking for truth.

The Physicist kept doing his research and contributed many theories which were greatly accepted and appreciated. He won many accolades, got patents and after 20 years of intense study and research, decided to return to his home country.

The Physicist returns to his home country and visits a temple. There he finds his old friend, living the life of an ascetic.

Here is the conversation they had

Physicist: What are you doing here friend?

Hermit:    I thought I should ask the same question to you.

Physicist: I just returned home yesterday. I finished my research, wrote a couple of papers, patented my work, taught in some universities and now on a sabbatical. Tell me one thing. How did you end up here?

Hermit:  I haven’t finished my research yet. It is a work in progress. When you were learning and exploring Physics, I was learning and exploring life, pilgrimages, asceticism and abstinence.

Physicist: But you were really good at Physics. You could have explored a bit further and made constructive contribution to world and mankind.

Hermit: All of that is false and vague.

Physicist: Why do you say so? You mean my 20 years of research is of no use?

Hermit:    You are exploring science. You will soon figure out a way to bend it and then use it for your own personal ambition. Soon, people will use your contribution against other people for fulfilling personal ambitions. This will only stir hatred and cause destruction.

Physicist: What do you mean?

Hermit:  You have understood Physics and have contributed a lot to it. But how is it going to be used? The coming generation will use your study to invent machines, bombs and weapons which will hurt mankind and not help it. We all know what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and only Physics is to be blamed, not politics, neither government. Physics killed those innocent people, not an army.

Physicist: Why are you looking at the darker side of Physics? We can build machines and systems which can improve human life and reduce effort, solve complex problems.

Hermit: What do you mean by improving human life? What is your definition of improvement? Human life just needs food, water and sleep to be happy. The problems that you are solving are created by you only. Science solves a problem which Science has created, resulting in a “Problem – Solution” conundrum, all of which is a waste and not needed in the first place.

Physicist: Of course, everybody is subjected to their own opinions about something.

Hermit: True. I never told you to stop doing what you are doing. It is you who is questioning why am I doing whatever I am doing, and what I could have done to improve human life. Hence I provided the context of reason.

Physicist: What have you contributed to the world?

Hermit: Nothing. The world is not waiting for my contribution. Neither yours. The fact that you have invented something doesn’t mean that everyone should do the same. Your behavior is not the benchmark.

Physicist: Can you explain your theories to me? I would like to understand what you have learnt through your life, living like an ascetic and becoming a wandering monk.

The hermit calls another hermit who was sleeping in the staircase of the temple.

Hermit: Friend, please explain your theory of relativity to this person.

Physicist: What do you mean? How can anyone explain Physics to an illiterate person? What does this person even know about Science?


Just like this person cannot understand Science, you cannot understand what I have done all my life. You are literate and scholarly by your measuring scale and to your measuring scale, this hermit is illiterate. In the same fashion, you are illiterate by our measuring scale and cannot understand our theories.

My friend, this is Relativity.

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