Einstein Agrees with the Lone Ranger

Albert Einstein and the Lone Ranger agree: Get over yourself.

Albert Einstein was one of the smartest people of the 20th century. His ideas revolutionized our understanding of space and time. They also contributed to the development of quantum mechanics.

The Lone Ranger was a fictional hero of radio and television shows from the 1930s to the 1950s. The episodes always featured strong moral messages about honesty, courage, forgiveness, and second chances. “Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice,” said the narrator in the show’s opening credits.

When Albert Einstein and the Lone Ranger agree on something, it’s worth paying attention.

Einstein’s version is more easily quotable. In his 1934 book Mein Weltbild (published in English with the title The World As I See It), he wrote that:

“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”

The Story of Sam Bass

The Lone Ranger’s version comes at the end of the show’s April 24, 1944 radio episode, so it requires context.

The episode was “The Story of Sam Bass.” In the opening scene, Sam’s wife is killed in a crossfire between the sheriff and an outlaw gang that just robbed the bank. Sam leaves his infant son Johnny with the boy’s grandparents. He embarks on a quest for revenge against Jim Murphy, the gang’s leader.

Years later, Sam has become a notorious outlaw himself but is finally closing in on Murphy’s gang. Also closing in are the Lone Ranger and his Indian companion Tonto. They’re tracking down the gang because Murphy killed a U.S. Marshal.

Posing as a criminal, the Lone Ranger meets Sam. He reveals that Sam’s grown-up son Johnny has become sheriff of the town that Murphy’s gang plans to rob next. He says that Johnny refuses to believe his father is an outlaw.

Just as the gang emerges from the town bank, Sam shows up, guns blazing. Though shot many times, he kills all of the outlaws before slumping to the ground. He saves his son’s life and the lives of several other people. A little later:

“Doc says there ain’t much hope for him, sheriff.”

“Yeah, I know. I wish that I knew his name.”

“Ain’t no mystery about that. It’s the same as yours. That’s Sam Bass, the outlaw.”

“But that’s my father’s name, and he’s not an outlaw.”

Sam wakes up, speaks to Johnny for a moment, and then dies.

“He’s gone, sheriff. But he went down fighting. You’ve got to admire an hombre like that, even if he was an outlaw.”

“You’re crazy. This is my father and he wasn’t an outlaw. Wait, I’ll bet there’s something in his pockets to prove he wasn’t.”

Johnny searches his father’s pockets. “Here. Look at this: a badge. A United States Marshal’s badge. That’s what Dad must have been doing.”

“Hey, sheriff. What’s on that piece of paper? That was in his pocket, too.”

“I don’t know. It looks like a note.”

“What does it say?”

“‘A man’s true worth is measured by what he does for someone else.’ And it’s signed, ‘The Lone Ranger’.”

The Bottom Line

Albert Einstein and the Lone Ranger agree:

Don’t worry about how you die. Worry about how you live.

P.S. A Real-Life Example

A Catholic priest in Italy not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. Few people would have had his courage and integrity. The UK Independent reported:

“A 72-year-old priest who gave his respirator to a younger Covid-19 patient he did not know has died from coronavirus. Father Giuseppe Berardelli, the main priest in the town of Casnigo, refused a respirator which had been bought for him by his parishioners and instead gave it to a younger patient.

He died last week in Lovere, Bergamo – one of the worst-hit cities in Italy’s ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“He was a simple, straightforward person, with a great kindness and helpfulness towards everyone, believers and non-believers,” Giuseppe Imberti, the mayor of Casnigo, said in a statement, according to the Italian news website Araberara.

Although there was no funeral for the priest, residents of the town reportedly applauded from their balconies as his coffin was taken for burial.”

Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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