node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
There are many people who are not entirely themselves because as children they were not given time to think about themselves. And because they don’t know everything about themselves they can’t know everything about everything. But no one likes to admit that she doesn’t know everything about everything. And so these people try to make up for not knowing everything about everything by doing things.


People who for some reason find it impossible to think about themselves, and so really be themselves, try to make up for not thinking with doing. They try to pretend that doing is thinking.
Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
Look, I’m stupid, all right? I’m not some brilliant person. I’m a little child. You know the emperor’s new clothes? I can see the naked emperor, just because I’m a little child-minded person. I’m not smart. I mean, good scientists are like that. They have the minds of children, to see through all this façade of all this other stuff that they know is stupid nonsense. They just don’t see it the way other people see it.
interview by Shirley K. Cohen (1995)
It is very sad then that so many children are hurried along and not given time to think about themselves. People say to them when they think that they have been playing long enough: “You are no longer a child. You must begin to do something.” But although playing is doing nothing, you are really doing something when you play; you are thinking about yourself. Many children play in the wrong way. They make work out of play. They not only seem to be doing something, they really are doing something. They are imitating the grown-ups around them who are always doing as much instead of as little as possible. And they are often encouraged to play in this way by the grown-ups. And they are not learning to be themselves.
If, in Récoltes et Semailles I'm addressing anyone besides myself, it isn't what's called a "public". Rather I'm addressing that someone who is prepared to read me as a person, and as a solitary person. It's to that being inside of you who knows how to be alone, it is to this infant that I wish to speak, and no-one else. I'm well aware that this infant has been considerably estranged. It's been through some hard times, and more than once over a long period. It's been dropped off Lord knows where, and it can be very difficult to reach. One swears that it died ages ago, or that it never existed - and yet I am certain it's always there, and very much alive.
"The Life of a Mathematician - Reflections and Bearing Witness" (1986)
I knew everything when I was 12, but not since. But way before I was 12, I knew that there were important things that the adults didn't know, or had forgotten, and I swore I would remember them. Now it's 60 years later and I don't remember them, but I never forgot that there were important things that nobody seemed to remember.