2 thoughts on “Uncertainty”

  1. I’ve watched these videos before (probably because you linked to them in the past on some interwebby blog), but I enjoyed them again. Something about his slight New York accent seems to coincide with his “no-bull” approach to matters…I can’t quite explain it, but I knew people who sounded just like him no matter what subject was being discussed (maybe my father’s college roommates who I referred to as “uncles”?) There’s no pretense. But I wondered about this dislike of “honors” and how real it was. [At this point I left and talked to my father for two hours beginning with this issue of “honors” and Feynman, not that he knows anything about Feynman]

    My father agreed with Feynman’s attitude, as “virtue is its own reward” was very much instilled in him by his father, too. Honors and awards as recognition for hard work and to also help career advancement are great (and may make some people work harder to get them), but he also finds adulation and the desire to be lauded, or to be part of some elite group, as sort of embarrassing, unnecessary and uncomfortable. The thing is, as Feynman says in his speech, everybody from family to the neighbors, friends, and particular associations, want to praise you and share the joy, or promote themselves indirectly, you know, like the Greek Such & Such Society wants to laud the first Greek in the state who accomplished x. The reward was already “gotten.” But this is lovely and true:

    But, in each I saw the same two common elements. I saw in each, joy; and I saw affection (you see, whatever modesty I may have had has been completely swept away in recent days).

    The prize was a signal to permit them to express, and me to learn about, their feelings. Each joy, though transient thrill, repeated in so many places amounts to a considerable sum of human happiness. And, each note of affection released thus one upon another has permitted me to realize a depth of love for my friends and acquaintances, which I had never felt so poignantly before. Feynman’s Nobel Prize Banquet Speech

    Anyway, this video was the start of a rare and very nice two-hour conversation ranging from awards and honors, tenure, classical education vs. new curriculums, science vs. the humanites at his college in his day, math, to the Spartans, Persians and the Ottoman Empire, to inner-city schools, immigration, and so on, before my father had to bid adieu and go cook for tomorrow. If I bite my tongue and don’t push any political hot-buttons too hard, he’s very resourceful…and a smart guy. We do both agree on education, at least.

    Thanks, that’s pretty good to post a video that makes someone call their father. :-)

    Oh, and the flower Feynman video below (ironically with blooms behind him outside), I agree with what he’s saying, but who says it detracts from the flower’s beauty to think about all the parts and workings (the nature) of the flower? This to me would be the equivalent of when someone snaps at you, “You think too much!” as if thinking about anything beyond the surface is such a difficult and awful thing.

  2. Melusine said,

    Thanks, that’s pretty good to post a video that makes someone call their father. :-)

    You’re welcome!

    The “artist friend” was Jirayr “Jerry” Zorthian, who died in 2004. He and Feynman met at a party where Feynman was playing the bongos, IIRC.

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