It’s like I came late to a party that all my friends knew about for YEARS.
I heard Richard Feynman’s name mentioned by anyone whose intellect and work I respected, but never really learned about him. Part of it has to do with my own self image and feeling like I wasn’t scientific enough to even try.
But the rabbit hole of Feynman’s lecture and interviews is a wonderful one to go down. There’s three things I notice about him that has nothing to do with his genius or his contribution to physics and mathematics.
First, his accent. In this short video of how he explains fire, not only is the explanation sublime, but the way he talks completely disarms you and makes the subject approachable. His accent couldn’t have been manufactured, meaning he didn’t purposely learn how to speak that way so he can seem friendly. It means Feynman’s genetic makeup made him born to be a teacher and speaker.
Second, his smile. Even when he’s explaining something as esoteric as magnetic forces, he’s on the verge of laughter. If he can hold in his laughter, he can’t hold back his smile. His eyes light up at the wonder he’s explaining and the fun he’s having while explaining it to us.
Listening to Feynman gives me the same feeling as when I watch my nephew build legos. He’s playing in front of us and he’s having enormous fun.
Third, his generosity. You can tell by his presence, by the way he’s sitting on the chair, his shoulders relaxed, there’s nothing he’d rather do then be right there. He treats the interviewer with respect. He treats us who is listening with respect, acknowledging the difficulty and depth of scientific knowledge, while giving us an insight we can grasp and take away with us.
Feynman’s contribution to science earned him the Nobel Prize amongst many other accolades, and yet he spent much of his career teaching undergraduate physics.
He’s the rarest amongst rare, a man who had the rigor of a scientist, with the openness of an artist.
There aren’t just lessons on physics to learn from him but what it means to have the heart of a creator.