What I love most about this book are Tesla’s recollections from his childhood and the interesting moments of his life that are not found in other books about him. In many ways Tesla was amazingly unique. For example, he talks about flashes of light and visions he had beginning in childhood similar to hallucinations that he could barely distinguish from reality. These visions caused him great anguish, though in time he learned to use them like something akin to a virtual workshop, his greatest asset as an inventor. He also discusses the superhuman senses he experienced as a young man, like being able to hear a watch ticking from several rooms away, and how these afflictions also were eventually turned into assets. Many readers will scoff at some of his recollections and Tesla admits that, especially the time he split a jumping fish in half with a rock, but I take him at his word because his inventions were just as unbelievable if not more so, and they were obviously very real.
I also love the subtle humor in his words. Tesla was a master at languages and was as thoughtful as one can be. He had an old-world way of explaining things that is very enjoyable such as this example about boys fishing for frogs: "When my comrades, who in spite of their fine outfit had caught nothing, came to me they were green with envy. For a long time I kept my secret and enjoyed the monopoly but finally yielded to the spirit of Christmas. Every boy could then do the same and the following summer brought disaster to the frogs."
Tesla brushes upon his inventions mostly with memories of how they came to be and brief descriptions of how they work or would influence humankind. The book is a very quick read, therefore not enough to go into much detail for each invention. Here’s what he says about the Wardenclyffe Tower shortly after its destruction: "The tower was destroyed two years ago but my projects are being developed and another one, improved in some features, will be constructed." (Unfortunately that prediction did not come to pass, or at least not yet.)
The other thing that stays with me about Tesla was how spiritually advanced he was. There are traces throughout his writings and quotes that carry profound truth; he’s a combination of geeky scientist and hippie preacher all it one. Here’s an example: "Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment and merging of races, and we are still far from this blissful realization."
While I’m in awe of Tesla and the things he did, I’m not 100% in agreement with him, particularly on the concept of free will and humans acting as automata. Perhaps I don’t completely understand his points on that, but it’s worth noting. In addition, I admire Tesla for his optimism that war could become obsolete if all humans had access to weapons and machinery of greater destructive ability, but I feel strongly that we as a species are still many decades from behaving in a way that takes the highest good for all into account.
Still, Tesla is my hero. I cannot think of any individual who had more influence on the world yet was stifled along the way in almost every regard. If only he had been given more cooperation, the world would be a much different and much better place.
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