“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool”.R. Feynman
I met Feynman in 1981, in Lisbon, when I was a young student of Physics in Paris. He was then a Nobel Laureate and a famed man of science. I didn’t know him personally, not even had a clue of his face. So I spent literally all the day looking for him during the international conference…Hence, I asked him to Gerhard t’Hooft, at the time not yet a Nobel Laureate. He told me with a surprised expression: “He was just around a few seconds ago…” Meanwhile, someone was staring at me with a funny expression on his face, sat on a chair in a relaxed mood and I didn’t like that. I was a serious student looking for Feynman! Almost at the end of the conference, I was sitting listening attentively to t’Hooft, when this same guy arrived and sat on the same row of chairs, shamelessly looking at me. I was taking notes seriously, waiting for the last talk (to be given by Feynman) and literally was pissed off with him!
Finally t’Hooft finished his talk, I was happy because I had grasped the meaning of the talk and then the next speaker appeared on the stage: it was the guy that pissed me off! It was Feynman! At the end of the day, discouraged with the adventurous but unsuccessful attempt to talk with the Genius, I was leaving the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, where all the drama took place when I unexpectedly saw him bent on a table and taking notes (or drawing?).
And finally reuniting all my courage went straight to him and talked. I was lucky to discover the hidden and true character of his personality: He was a funny person, naturally clever but humble too, with a lot of patience for young people like me, despising the arrogance of people, probably avoiding them since I saw him the majority of the time alone…
That was Feynman, off the beaten track!…
It is clear to me, after all these years, that Arline was his muse, impressing on his outstanding mind the impressive track he followed a long life. It is dramatic the last love letter to Arline, he wrote two years after her death and opened in 1988, according to his wishes after he died from cancer.
October 17, 1946
I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.
It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.
But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.
When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.
I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.
Feynman lived for 3 years in Rio de Janeiro, besides being loved by several Brazilian women, some of them wives of his colleagues… he learned how to play “frigideira” (see the video below, a popular tribute to him)