“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” ― E.B. White
A physicist, Freeman Dyson, Shares Words of Wisdom
I e-mailed to ask him: (1) why he remained hard at work; (2) what were his strengths and weaknesses now compared with earlier in his career; and (3) what advice would he give to those who have been working for (a) one year, and (b) 30 years? This was his reply, received the next day:
Here are brief answers to your questions.
1. I continue working because I agree with Sigmund Freud’s definition of mental health. To be healthy means to love and to work. Both activities are good for the soul, and one of them also helps to pay for the groceries.
2. In my younger days my work as a scientist was deep and narrow. Now, as I grow old, my work grows broader and shallower. As a young man, I solved technical problems of interest only to a few specialists. As an old man, I write books about human affairs of interest to a broad public. In both halves of my life, I tried to make the best use of my limited abilities.
3. (a). Advice to people at the beginning of their careers: do not imagine that you have to know everything before you can do anything. My own best work was done when I was most ignorant. Grab every opportunity to take responsibility and do things for which you are unqualified.
(b). Advice to people at the middle of their careers: do not be afraid to switch careers and try something new. As my friend the physicist Leo Szilard said (number nine in his list of ten commandments): “Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not hinder you from being what you have become.”
Advice about girls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QTm7mtxnX0&feature=related
Robin Williams on football: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inbhtK80LBc&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL83AB2BF79F282FDF
Good movie on US History, The Conspirator (2010), Directed by Robert Redford: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0968264/. The movie is about Mary Surratt, the first woman civilian tried and executed by a U.S. Military Court in July 1865.
Why The Conspirators is relevant for today: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/23/western_justice_and_transparency/