How to go about sculpting a scientist who turns away from attention? Not just any scientist, mind you, but a bongo-playing, skirt-chasing Don Juan in jeans who shrugs off his groundbreaking achievements in quantum physics as “nothing important”? To call him curious and complex would be the understatement of the millennium.
Well, while I was squaring this circle of a problem, Feyman decided to occur to me, post mortem, in a selfie form. He floats up in my mind one afternoon, as a Faun (Feyn?) sitting on a rock ― nude, as you would expect ― gleefully playing bongo for some nymphs. (As soon as he grants me a vision of them, I’ll sculpt them, too.) No sound track was provided, but I’m sure Debussy wouldn’t have minded: an American so hedonistic he should have been French.
Now, a live Feynman would have absolutely refused to get besculptured. So this will be ― how to say it in proper English? ― erected strictly as a labour of love. Skeptics might have termed it a love of labour. I think it is both.
I do realize that there must have been an unwritten rule, somewhere, in Aristotle: “Thou shalt NOT sculpt thy scientist in his birthday suit. Athletes? It goes without saying. Gods? (super) Naturally. Emperors? Well, let’s call it a Photoshop session, avant la lettre. But scientists? Hades, NO! Something should be respected, don’t you think?”
Indeed. For some reasons, even Ancient Greek scientists have resolutely hung on to their togas (chlamys to the Philhellene, but the word sounds slightly suspicious to most English-speakers). But, as Feynman would have answered, “If I ever get to that point, how about I still go nude anyway?” He would have pleaded before any judge, that girls should be picked up by the book (which he dutifully provided), bars should stay topless (as far as hostesses go) and bottomless (as drinks do), and that scientists, if ever they should get sculpted, should let that funny last fig leaf go with the wind. After all, Fauns only come in during the fall season, exactly when all leaves, vine or fig, shall fall. Thus said Nature, so wine could come to man, and all that good stuff. The physicist in Feynman would not have tried to fool Nature in the name of Respectability. The absolute precedence of public relations over reality is a Neo-Puritan doctrine. Let’s the Neo-Confucians adopt it.
So be it: Richard Feynman, will now, officially, do a digital illustration of Debussy. After a middle-aged excursion into computer science, and another foray into drawing, who knows what he might be up to now in Hades? Let’s give him, and ourselves, once more, that spine-tingling pleasure of finding things out.
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