Monday, May 6, 2013

The Physicists

Book: The Physicists by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Description: The world’s greatest physicist, Johann Wilhelm Möbius, is in a madhouse, haunted by recurring visions of King Solomon. He is kept company by two other equally deluded scientists: one who thinks he is Einstein, another who believes he is Newton. It soon becomes evident, however, that these three are not as harmlessly lunatic as they appear. Are they, in fact, really mad? Or are they playing some murderous game, with the world as the stake? For Möbius has uncovered the mystery of the universe—and therefore the key to its destruction—and Einstein and Newton are vying for this secret that would enable them to rule the earth. (from

My Thoughts: I will admit right now that I disliked this play, and am not recommending it. I did, however, think that it was interesting as it essentially portrays the modern worldview in its most pessimistic form and drawn to some of its logical conclusions, and as such it allows for interesting contrasts. And that is why I chose to write about it here today.

The play begins with a murder, and there is another a bit later. No one ever judges this as wrong, not once--everyone accepts that these men can murder these other people simply for their convenience (which is why both murders ultimately happened. One occurred so that one of the physicists would not be distracted from his "important" work, for instance). There is simply no sense of morality at all. The one character who consistently attempts to do the right thing (at least in some aspects of his life) is foiled by utter coincidence, and the play ends in helplessness and despair. With a living God in control of everything, I know that life isn't like this!!

Coincidence is a huge aspect of the plot. Coincidence is always negative, ruining the plans of anyone good (but seemingly no one trying to destroy the world... Because that is how the play ends, with a completely insane person about to take over the world). Dürrenmatt even wrote about this play that "The more human beings proceed by plan the more effectively they may be hit by accident." Admittedly Christianity is ultimately against humans making plans unless the plan has been given to them by God ("Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21), but it also does not have this awful idea that coincidences/accidents are going to destroy every plan we ever make and that the world is doomed to misery and failure.

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