“It is not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You should also have an open mind at the right time.”
– Paul Erdős
There’s a knock at the door. Behind it stands a man. All his possessions packed in two half filled suitcases. When the door opens he smiles and says: “My brain is open.”
After a few days a couple of papers have been finished and his work here is done. Before leaving he asks a question: “Who should I visit next?”
This was typical for anyone who knew Paul Erdős.
Back in March I wrote a note that said “My Brain Is Open”. I remember hearing, reading or seeing something about this guy that sparked an idea.
Well, other stuff got in the way and I didn’t look at the note until today. I figured it was probably something about being open to new experiences. But whatever point I felt I wanted to make just got lost in the busyness of it all.
Not wanting it just to sit there unfinished I decided to take an hour or so of research on the guy and do the best I could with the material.
He turned out to be quite an interesting figure. The mathematics didn’t interest me as much as his philosophy and how he conducted his life.
Erdős was quite the prolific mathematician. During his time he managed to collaborate with 511 other mathematicians and publish over 1500 paper. That’s just, wow!
It was largely due to this that he managed to cross pollinate so many disperate fields within mathematics. While depth is great, being able to influence so many ideas is something I really admire.
On the topic of life he chose to express himself like this:
“SF means Supreme Fascist — this would show that God is bad. I don’t claim that this is correct, or that God exists, but it is just sort of half a joke.
As a joke I said, ‘What is the purpose of Life?, ‘Proof and conjecture, and keep the SF’s score low.’
Now, the game with the SF is defined as follows:
If you do something bad the SF gets at least two points.
If you don’t do something good which you could have done, the SF gets at least one point.
And if nothing — if you are okay, then no one gets any point.
And the aim is to keep the SF’s score low.”
If we’re lucky we get about 100 years to contribute our little piece to humanity’s progress. While Erdős managed to do a lot by himself he accomplished far more by working with others.
An that’s the lesson we should take to heart. We can accomplish more by finding other minds to connect with, exposing ourselves to new ideas, problems and points of view.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!