Dynamite and world peace

World peace  ….  that favorite topic of beauty pageant contestants and those attempting a serious drinking toast ….. was also an obsession of the inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel.

His personal recipe for world peace was to use part of the fortune he amassed from his invention to present an annual award to the human or humans who had done the most in the past year to make peace happen.  Along the way people as diverse as Mother Teresa, Leo Tolstoy and  Henry Kissinger have been honored. The award is presented every year in Oslo Norway, and a few days ago the author of this blog got to visit the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo.

I and the character I created, Lola Zeitman, both share Alfred Nobel’s obsession with the concept of world peace. Lola believes that empathy is the key to getting along, and that if we could all just walk in each others shoes (or feel each others feelings) hatred would be difficult. I like to think that she is right. However, I may be less of an idealist than Lola. Humans are remarkably clever and I fear that even if we all became telepathic tomorrow, we’d still find a way to hate, not to mention figuring out a hundred new ways to manipulate and take advantage of each of other.

I do now know, however, that Norway is a stunningly beautiful country (see waterfall at right), Oslo is a fascinating city (see statue above) and the two exhibits at the Nobel Peace Center during July 2012 were truly moving. I walked away with a few trinket souvenirs, and the belief that if even the man who invented dynamite can reach out for a solution to war, maybe there really is an answer out there somewhere.

Go here for more information on the Nobel Peace Center and here for details on the Nobel Peace Prize.

6 thoughts on “Dynamite and world peace

  1. Sherrie, I enjoyed your summary. However, I was unable to look at the pictures you described because I couldn’t pull them up on my phone. I don’t have the internet on my computer at the condo. I agree with you so much about walking in other people’s shoes just for one day. Wouldn’t that be awsome? Kids shadow us and walk in our shoes for one day a year. Of course they choose to do so with parental permission. Why can’t we as adults try it for one day? Maybe we’d like it too much!!!!

    • I like that Meg. One day a year we shadow someone who has a completely different life, and six months later they shadow us. Every year it’s someone new. We could do this! Can you imagine the difference it could make in our society after a decade?

  2. It is a great honor (and also profitable) to be awarded Nobel Prize. However, like any endeavor that involves humans, it can be politicized, and sometimes is. Albert Einsein was nominated for a Nobel Prize in physics in 1906 for his development of the Theory of Relativity. But the award went to Sir. Joseph Thomson of the UK that year. There are two main hypotheses given as reasons for Einstein not receiving the award. 1) it was due to anti-Jewish prejudice on the Nobel Committee, 2) Committee members knew that Nobel didn’t really care much for abstract physical and mathematical theories. He was more interested in practical developments which would benefit mankind. In keeping with Nobel’s penchant for the practical, they disregarded Einstein in favor of Thomson for his discovery of electrons and isotopes. I favor 1). Numerous theoretical physicists and chemists have subsequently been awarded Nobel Prizes. Einstein’s fame grew, and he was nominated again and won the prize in 1921 for the photoelectric effect. Just about any physicist will tell you that that was a considerably lesser achievement than the Theory of Relativity.

    An interesting urban legend is that Nobel made no award for mathematics because his wife ran off with a mathematician. Nobel was never married, so this conjecture is obviously baloney. Probably the reason was 2) above. Nobel just had no interest in abstract mathematical theories and proofs. As your blog states, the award was for promoting world peace, and it was for practical applications that bettered mankind, not for developing abstract mathematical theories. Here I use “theory” as used in science, not as loosely used in everyday talk to mean untested hypotheses,
    speculation or mere conjecture.

    Two questionable awards:
    Antonio (Egaz) Moniz, a Portuguese physician, won the Nobel Prize in physiology in 1949 for his development of the lobotomy technique on humans.
    Barack Obama won the Peace prize in 2009, certainly not for his use of drones.


    • I only learned last week that one committee in Stockholm selects all the winners of Nobel science awards and a different group in Norway deals with the peace prize. Mr. Nobel apparently wanted to keep the two quite separate. I suspect that the science awards are plagued by the same politics and infighting inherent in any contest decided by a committee. The peace prize has had its share of questionable issues too. Gandhi never received the award. After being passed over a few times, he was assassinated before they could give it to him. Hitler was nominated by a committee member protesting another nomination he felt was unworthy, and Stalin and Mussolini were both nominated in earnest.

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