May 17, 2011

Read #1, David’s Pick

What Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious CharacterWhat Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character (as told to Ralph Leighton)
by Richard P. Feynman

Richard Feynman’s stories have inspired David for years–perhaps since the year 2002, which is when we went to San Francisco, which is where he must have obtained the SFMOMA bookmark I found stashed inside his copy of this book. (Although, I don’t think I remember going to SFMOMA with David. Maybe it blends into all the other art museums in my mind, or maybe that’s what he was really doing when he was supposed to be at Macworld and I was huffing it alone up the hills around Coit Tower. No. David has a fine arts degree, but who are we kidding? It was Macworld.)

David wants me to read this book because of how important it was to him when he first read it and because of how he has carried the sentiments and ideas expressed by Feynman with him ever since. He also thinks the title is perfect for me because of how often I say I wish I didn’t care so much what other people think of me. It’s true. I really do say and wish that, so maybe this book will push me in the right direction.

I started reading the book yesterday. It is a collection of autobiographical stories that Feynman told in various ways while he was still living. My tears have already fallen once, at the end of the second story.

Below I quote a bit I love from the first story (The Making of a Scientist), in which Feynman recounts how his father taught him to look at the world. Feynman has just told us about a friend who chided him for not knowing the name of a particular bird, even though he and his father went walking in the woods often. Here, he quotes (or probably paraphrases) his father’s response to such chiding:

You can know the name of that bird in all the languages of he world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You’ll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing–that’s what counts. (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.)

I am on page 54, the beginning of the third story.

Looking forward.