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David Hines [userpic]

quotes that strike you dumb

November 29th, 2008 (01:21 pm)

"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.)


Posted by: Seperis (seperis)
Posted at: November 29th, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC)

*winces* I did have a friend that was not quite that frank, but generally ignored practiced social responses to respond directly to casual questions. It made her easy to gauge emotionally, which is rare and to be treasured, but at least for me, interactions were rarely casual or automatic.

I think my knee jerk depending on mood is either short-indirect-run-away or settling down for coffee and a long discussion on the state of my emotional health. I do wonder how that comes about.

Posted by: Dan Orkwis (dorkwis)
Posted at: November 29th, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)

May I link to this? It touches perfectly on my mood today.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: November 29th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)

Sure. No need to ask to link public posts.

Posted by: zackstentz (zackstentz)
Posted at: December 1st, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)

To paraphrase Rick James, Aspergers is a hell of a syndrome!

Posted by: Anastasia Mitrevski (rushin_doll)
Posted at: December 1st, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)

That's still a favorite book of mine. It's so oddly disconcerting in some ways, and so utterly human in others.

The part that always sticks with me is Erdos' amphetamine usage, and especially the time he proved he wasn't chemically addicted.

Ah, eccentric genius,

Posted by: Jayman (smjayman)
Posted at: December 3rd, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)

You, of all people, will appreciate this review of the Twilight books:


Posted by: Abigail Lynn (abigailynn)
Posted at: December 4th, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)

Hey there,

I came across your lj because I've subscribed to Google Alerts with the key words "sex trafficking", and one of the links it sent me was to your Thanksgiving post. I hope you don't mind if I add you to my f-list, I've enjoyed all the entries that I've read. :)

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