my life is fuller because I realize that I don’t know what I’m doing. me too, and I can laugh about it

I’m delighted with the width of the world.
Richard Feynman

The excerpt below is from the book, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman, from Chapter 9, The Smartest Mann in the World, which was published as a 1979 interview with with Omni Magazine.

Now Richard Feynman may very well have been, during his lifetime, the smartest man in the world, and to understand his achievement in science demands a knowledge of mathematics ad physics that I, for one, am mostly without. But Feynman has a lot to say in this work, and elsewhere, that I can understand and with which I can identify. Here is a short section from the Omni Interview, no mathematics needed.

Omni: But you can trace influences the other way, say, the influence on you of Hans Bethe or John Wheeler . . .?

Feynman: Sure. But I don’t know the effect I’m having. Maybe it’s just my character: I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist or sociologist, I don’t know how to understand people, including myself.

You ask, how can this guy teach, how can he be motivated if he doesn’t know what he’s doing? As a matter of fact, I love to teach.

I like to think of new ways of looking at things as I explain them, to make them clearer–but maybe I’m not making them clearer. Probably what I’m doing is entertaining myself. I’ve learned how to live without knowing. I don’t have to be sure I’m succeeding, and as I said before about science, I think my life is fuller because I realize that I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m delighted with the width of the world!


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