yo-yo ma on richard feynman – an extract

June 11, 2022

Amazing that the ideas & experiences of two (of n) people that I adore & respect have intersected in this book. One wonders venn such a thing happened last…

(okay, must admit that, it is happening more frequently now than earlier – or um, may be it is an offshoot of my febrile imagination; or may be, I am rapidly going down an yet-another rabbit-hole, whatever…)

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The Quotable Feynman -Michelle Feynman (Editor)

Yo-Yo Ma, the Cellist – has contributed a reflection/commentary on The Feynman to this book of thematically arranged quotes (with sources & references) – edited by Michelle Feynman, the daughter of The Richard Feynman.

Yo-Yo Ma.

Apparently, he did an impromptu cello performance, as part of his ‘Bach Project World Tour’ at the Marine Drive in Mumbai in 2019. There was an yet-another impromptu performance of his with our TM Krishna, a musically gifted/talented, yet a LeLi-Dravidian troll/imbecile who willingly allowed lobbying to happen for his purchase of a Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016 or thereabouts – say, for some apparently ‘social-inclusiveness in culture,’ whatever that means, much, much above his pay-grade.

Perhaps, the early training of KrishnaTM in Economics, allows him to be amply & shamelessly economical with Truth & notions of ‘deservedness.’ And, allows himself to preen himself in SJW camaraderie.

Anyway, am digressing.

But, Yo-Yo Ma.

His sadhana, incredible stature, prodigious talent, humility and the related kalyana-gunas perhaps, do not allow him pontificate on things and be presumptuously churlish about them – magsaysay, unlike KrishnaTM

…Considering how the talented & gifted Ilayaraja adored (adores even now?) Johannes Sebastian The Bach – to the extent that he has used or woven-in many movements/overtures of Bach into his own musical offerings – one imagines how nice it would have been, if Yo-Yo Ma and Ilayaraja had come together, in a fitting tribute to Bach.

…However, one assumes that, because Ilayaraja is revered mostly (but not exclusively) by the plebeian circles, he did not care to be sufficiently networked in the symbiotic & carnivorous Elite circles unlike a TMKrishna – not that Ilayaraja, with his genius even needed that anyway…

Again, am digressing. grr

Am reproducing Yo-Yo Ma’s commentary verbatim, in the next section.

Please buy the book, if you can.

It is nice to keep getting back to it – not because one cannot refer to his original books and videos (especially considering their rather excessive & free availability these days) – but because it is tastefully done.

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Reflections on Richard Feynman

There seems to be an insatiable public appetite to feel a closeness with the giant mind and personality of Richard Feynman. This curiosity transcends generations, crosses disciplines and cultures. Over a quarter of a century after his passing, he remains alive in the public consciousness, his books are still in print, his legendary lectures are online, scientists are continuing to grapple and tangle with many of the theories he put forth decades ago.

So where does the longevity of his aura come from? I can only offer a sliver of a snapshot.

Over three decades ago, I used to see Richard backstage at concerts. He came not because he liked cello playing particularly, but because his beloved young daughter, Michelle, played, and of course, what doting father wouldn’t want to please his daughter? Sometimes we would pass time bantering about what truth is in science and art, and he would always say, “In science you have to prove it.” And then he would regale us with stories of his adventures playing the bongo drums. Once we went to the house and he showed us his beautiful drawings of the human figure. He talked about how his desire to go to Tuva came about from playing a geography game. He was always energetic, attentive, and present.

One of my heroes, as I was growing up, was the great cellist Pablo Casals. I was particularly impressed when he remarked that he was a human being first, a musician second, and a cellist third. I was similarly taken when I read one of Richard’s quotes: “You cannot develop a personality with physics alone; the rest of your life must be worked in.”

Therein lies a clue to the longevity of Richard Feynman. Yes, he was one of the all-time great physicists, but he also paid attention to life and love, to his children, to his family, to the sensuality of the human figure, to the primal complexities of drumming, to his entire environment. While he paid close attention to problems we face and generate, he also knew that humans are a subset of nature, and nature held for him the greatest fascination — for the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man, and nature guards her secrets jealously.

Thus, for him, it was worth the years of work to extract some of those secrets in order to pass them on in the most direct and understandable form to the rest of us. Because he worked his whole life into his personality, we could identify with his humanness and therefore stay with him as he took us on the most spectacular journey of all, the never-ending quest to understand everything.

Surely you must still be joking, Mr. Feynman!

Yo-Yo Ma

Cellist

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Heartening, to say the least. Very sweetly scribed, yes.

“You cannot develop a personality with X alone; the rest of your life must be worked in.”

END

7 Responses to “yo-yo ma on richard feynman – an extract”

  1. B Says:

    You youself said you dont watch tamil movies but you are saying maestro Ilayaraja copied? What movies you watched? What proofs you have?

  2. B Says:

    Have u listened to T. M. Krihna? can u sing?

  3. Aathma Says:

    Many times when I perform rituals somehow his Cargo cult comes to my mind..

  4. Balaji Says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely to see people I adore and respect (Feynman, Ilayaraja, Yo-Yo Ma and TM Krishna) all mentioned in the same article. Thank you Ram. I’m hallucinating now of a concerto in which all them playing.


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