David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines

quotes that strike you dumb

"I was walking across a courtyard to breakfast at a conference," recalled Herb Wilf, a combinatorialist at the University of Pennsylvania, "and Erdos, who had just had breakfast, was walking in the opposite direction. When our paths crossed, I offered my customary greeting, 'Good morning, Paul. How are you today?' He stopped dead in his tracks. Out of respect and deference, I stopped too. We just stood there silently. He was taking my question very seriously, giving it the same consideration he would if I had asked him about the asymptotics of partition theory. His whole life was spent thinking hard about serious mathematical questions, and he treated this one no differently. Finally, after much reflection, he said, 'Herbert, today I am very sad.' And I said, 'I am sorry to hear that. Why are you sad, Paul?' He said, 'I am sad because I miss my mother. She is dead, you know.' I said, 'I know that, Paul. I know her death was very sad for you and for many of us, too. But wasn't that about five years ago?' He said, 'Yes, it was. But I miss her very much.' We stood there silently for a few awkward moments and then went our separate ways."

(biography of mathematician Paul Erdos)

...aw, *man.*

I have had some rough-ass days in my life, and if somebody asked me that on one of them and I were inclined to be honest about my feelings, I wish I could explain with the economy, grace, emotion, and composure Erdos exhibits in that exchange.

"Herbert, today I am very sad." Man, I *wish* I could just say it like that and be done. (Instead, it's either a long and tragic story or nothing at all.)
Tags: quotes

  • Newtown: a tactical assessment

    I'm going to talk about the Newtown, Connecticut murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in two posts. This is the first one. In this one, I'll talk…

  • belated Aurora post

    At the midnight premiere of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES in Aurora, Colorado, a theater patron exited the theater through the emergency door and went to his…

  • the Breivik trial

    Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011, has gone on trial. The information that'll come out as the case is presented…

  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded