7 Things Richard Feynman’s Love Letter Can Teach Us About Love
Richard Feynman was a curious man. “I’m an explorer, OK? I like to find out!” His curiosity won him the Nobel Prize for physics in 1965.
Richard and his wife, Arline Greenbaum, were soul mates.
His love for life gave him the status of an American cultural icon. Feynman wrote many love letters to his wife, Arline.
He wrote to his wife, his daughter Michelle, scientists, fans, students, crackpots as well as strangers. Michelle Feynman collected his words in a book, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track.
He discussed everything from the Manhattan Project to developments in quantum physics and grade-school textbooks in these letters. He wrote with clarity, grace, humor, and optimism.
“Physics isn’t the most important thing. Love is.” ~ Richard P. Feynman
Of these letters, the most beautiful is the one Richard wrote to his wife Arline sixteen months after her death.
October 17, 1946
I adore you, sweetheart.
I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.
It is such a long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years, but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.
But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.
I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do? We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you, and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.
When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then, there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is even more true — you can give me nothing now, yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.
I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones. I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.
My darling wife, I do adore you.
I love my wife. My wife is dead.
PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.
Reading this letter, I got all teary-eyed. It is a simple act of love. Arline is dead, and Richard is gone, but his act of love — an innocent love letter — will probably never die.
Helen Keller once said that the best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.
’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. ~Alfred Tennyson
This letter taught me these valuable lessons:
- Every girl likes you to say — in simple and clear words — that you love her.
- If you love someone, don’t wait; tell them that you love them.
- When you love someone, you want to comfort them and take care of them.
- When you are in love, you discuss problems with one another, and you start projects together.
- You intuitively know what your lover needs.
- When you love someone, you want them to be happy.
- True love is a state of mind that even death cannot change.
Richard Feynman’s stature makes these insights seem like science. His words capture the spirit of true love.
I know most of us will not find this type of love. But if you do find love — of any kind — be grateful because, in our journey of life, the most important thing is finding and cherishing every moment of love.