I recently came across Richard Feynman (1918-1988), one of the great scientific minds of the twentieth century. Feynman is famous, among other things, for his ability to explain incredibly complex matters in ways people can understand and relate to – which I think is an admirable gift. This little introduction on Feynman got me hooked straight away: The Beauty is in the detail – on the magic of ‘ordinary’ objects, which we so often overlook.
One thing is that I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs, in different degrees of certainty, about different things. But I’m not absolutely sure of anything and of many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit, if I can’t figure it out, then I go onto something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me (Interview in BBC’s Horizon program – 1981)
Feynman did more than just inspire people to think about the world of science. He is a thought provoking thinker on philosophical issues, discussing and asking important questions on religion, society and the mysteries of our universe.
In 2005, Freeman Dyson described him as
“besides being a famous joker and a famous genius, Feynman was also a wise human being whose answers to serious questions made sense. To me and to hundreds of other students who came to him for advice, he spoke truth […]. Behind his enormous zest and enjoyment of life was an awareness of tragedy, a knowledge that our time on earth is short and precarious. The public made him into an icon because he was not only a great scientist and a great clown but also a great human being and a guide in time of trouble“.
Although his words might seem very serious to some of us at first sight, they contain so much lightness and reflect his evident joy and fascination with life on earth.
We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
(What Do You Care What Other People Think? – 1988, pp. 247-248)
If you are intrigued – have a look at the following links – really worth watching and taking it all in!