Book Reflection: Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman
At different points and as soon as I finished reading this book, I knew I had to write a reflection. It is currently 7:22 pm on a Sunday evening. A time I realize I should be doing schoolwork. However, I have decided to use this time to write about a human experience so authentic and profound that it guided me through the whole range of human experiences from joy, and laughter to absolute shock.
The first lesson I learned from this book was the importance of trusting your own abilities. I have often found that the difference between normal and extraordinary is in the grey area of what I like to call the "taking it into your own hands" zone. For example, if we are given a new problem in math, most people (including me most often) tend to look through a similar example and only then proceed to solve the problem. Feynman seems to be the type of person that developed an incredibly strong sense of self-reliance in his problem-solving skills from a young age.
This is something I have always wanted to develop more of and have done so to varying degrees for different aspects of my life. For example, even as I was beginning to write this blog, I decided to first read other people's opinions on the book as if I literally do not have the ability to critically think for myself. Feynman on the other hand seems to be on a whole new level of thinking for himself where he proudly abandons all the crutches and chooses the road less traveled which ultimately makes all the difference. I believe that is the result of his trust in the rigor of his solid understanding of the fundamentals as well as his being purely driven by curiosity and wonder. He also seems to have the ability to see things in the lowest levels of abstraction instead of the shallow things we all do to pretend concrete understanding of something.
The next lesson is about the necessity of play. At one point I was struck by the book where he mentions that he started getting disgusted by physics due to the overwhelming amount of work as well as the influence of bureaucracy, internal politics, and his role in fulfilling different university's own interests. This gave me a sense of solace in understanding that even one of the brightest minds in a field can get repelled by their passions sometimes. In such a situation, it was playing with physics that cured him and brought him back to the fire that ignited from within. This made me feel good that I so often prioritize fun in my own life so that I can continue enjoying all the things I decide are worth pursuing and giving my time to.
I know the book is mostly about exploring someone that seems so different from normal but I found that he is someone that made me feel even closer to what it means to be a human. There are points in the book where it is easy to criticize his perceptions and grandiosities. However, it is good to know that not even he could transcend the struggles we all face regularly such as fear of judgment (parts about the women haha), not feeling good enough, feeling like we're the only ones thinking a certain way (differentiating between the truth and absolute insanity) and questioning the point of authorities and formalities.
Further, here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“I always do that, get into something and see how far I can go.”
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool."
"You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing."
Finally, something similar I found with him with me was his irreverence seemed to emerge from confusion rather than intention. And although he was fiercely independent, intolerant of stupidity, and unafraid to offend, I felt that all of us are probably more similar to him than different. Perhaps it is only when we are able to de-pedestalize these geniuses that we can begin finding a sense of possibility in ourselves to discover our own adventures suited to our unique characters and be mistaken for joking when totally serious.
Just like in "Surely, You're Joking Mr. Feynman" the adventures of a curious character.
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