"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
I've been circling this book, 'The Feynman Lectures on Physics', and Gleck's 'Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman' for awhile. This one seemed the most fun and easiest place to start. I was driving from Taos/Santa Fe back to Phoenix last week and as I drove past Los Alamos, it was just the particle collision in my brain I needed to start on Feynman.
Often, memoirs are hard to read because you know a bunch of it is façade. A person is showing you a part of them for a purpose. They want to be viewed as smart, important, funny, etc. They carefully guide you through a Potemkin village of their life. Richard Feynman's memoir is different. Not that I don't think Feynman had an ego. He might have even had an agenda with the book. But, for the most part, he seemed much more interested in the stories he wanted to tell, rather than on how they would make him look. He wasn't all that worried about how he looked so much. His entire life was built around doing what he wanted, exploring what he found interesting, violating taboos, beating his own drums and cutting his own path.
He was a Nobel-prize winning polymath physicist whose other talents included playing drums, teaching, drawing naked girls, picking locks, making atomic bombs, practical jokes, and telling stories. He wasn't interested in the usual trappings of success. Many of those things annoyed him. He was curious. He was a risk-taker. He was a genius.
The narration was solid, but not top shelf. The Histories, however, is one of those books where an audiobook helps. Reading Herodotus, one can often get bogged down in the loops of geography, people, history, culture and meandre through miles of esoterica. The audiobook gives you a good pace and force-marches you through to the end. I enjoyed the audiobook, but utilized it more as a tool as I read the Landmark series. That is another aspect where the audiobook helps. When reading one translation and listening to another, similar translation, the reader/listener is often able to glean additional information.
“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how".”
- Viktor E Frankl
I read an interesting article in the NYTImes a couple weeks ago that lead me to finally pick this book up. Actually, a couple good articles. The first was titled 'Love People, Not Pleasure' and it was about how "this search for fame, the lust for material things and the objectification of others — that is, the cycle of grasping and craving — follows a formula that is elegant, simple and deadly: Love things, use people." The author uses an inversion of this formula that DOES lead to happiness: Use things, Love People (also quoted by Spencer W. Kimball). This article + another recent one from the Atlantic titled 'There's More to Life Than Being Happy' made it clearly evident to me that I needed to finally dust of my yellowed, Goodwill copy of Man's Search for Meaning, plug in my earbuds and experience this book that the Universe clearly wanted me to read this week.
So, imagine a renowned Jewish therapist writes in 1946 (in 9 days) about his experiences at and survival in Auschwitz, and then adds his own psychotherapeutic method (Logotherapy), finding happiness by finding a meaning, a responsibility, a love, and ultimately self-determining. Perhaps it is a consequence of Frankl's work surrounding me in other writings, in popular psychotherapy, in various internet Memes and articles OR perhaps it is just a consequence of my own resilience to my own suffering that this book wasn't much of a revelation. I was like ... yup, makes a lot of sense. Good job. I think it is a great book for what it is. I just don't always get super-excited by self-help psychology books. This one is on the better end of the bell curve for this type, but I guess my problem is with the type. Other than that (minus 1-star for my type bias) it was a great book.