Richard Feynman: The Difference Between Pompous and Ordinary Fools
Richard Feynman was a multifaceted man: a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, a wonderful, caring teacher, a bongo player, an unabashed smartass...
Above all, Feynman was blunt and brutally honest. In science, this served him well.
"If the idea looked lousy, I said it looked lousy. If it looked good, I said it looked good. Simple proposition," he wrote in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.
But when Feynman attended a conference in New York on "the ethics of equality" in the early 1950s, he found himself out of his league. Brilliant yet bloviating thinkers from all sorts of disciplines made grandiose speeches in verbose language without solving any problems, or even properly defining the problems at all. He felt the whole event -- which could have been worthwhile -- devolved to little more than chaos. Afterwards, he vowed to never attend a conference like that again.
"There were a lot of fools at that conference -- pompous fools -- and pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools -- guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing people as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus -- THAT, I CANNOT STAND! An ordinary fool isn't a faker; an honest fool is all right. But a dishonest fool is terrible! And that's what I got at the conference, a bunch of pompous fools, and I got very upset."
(Image: Tamiko Thiel)