Yesterday, the family and I went to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles for some pig-snout tacos, after which we headed to The Last Bookstore to browse the shelves. Such a beautiful bookstore, nestled in a historic building:
I love being in bookstores, not only to discover, but to listen to the books, to hear which ones would speak to me from the shelves. This time, it was the books on the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman – books of his lectures, a few biographies about him, and of course his incredible autobiography Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
“Surely You’re Joking…” was a touchstone book for me; I read it in college, and Feynman instantly became my intellectual hero: a supremely gifted but dedicated thinker; an exceptionally curious and skeptical mind; the morally-searching creator of the world’s deadliest weapon; a holy prankster… and a lover of women, flotation tanks, world travel, and playing the bongos. Here was a man who could live the life of the mind while still living life to the fullest, with his eyes wide open, leveraging his hard-earned knowledge to experience to be able to enjoy an honest sense of mystery and awe which to me seemed more beautiful than any world mythology. I wanted to be like him.
And as I flipped through the books on Feynman at The Last Bookstore, I remembered that he had taught at Caltech, and I started to get the idea that he was probably buried right near my house, and that we should visit his grave. I looked him up and saw that he was. So we drove to Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena to look for his grave, and after some time, we came upon it. And to my delight, his gravesite matched my image of what it should and would be – the humblest one in the whole lot. For Feynman was a man who always had laughed at pomp (he had resigned from a club at MIT because it spent most of its time deciding who would be worthy of membership).
As my family stood beside his grave, I tried to tell my 8-year-old son how much Feynman’s thoughts and life meant to me, but Anatol was only in the mood to goof around – which seemed entirely appropriate. So I snapped this picture, which is beautiful to me. In heart of my family, Feynman lives on.