Some times you strike gold at a random pick. After a heavy read I was looking for a lighter book(in terms of weight) and did spend about 15 minutes walking across the library to pick this. This title “Killing time” caught my attention, because its pretty much what we do in life. Its not a time management book but was surprised at the later part of the title which said “The autobiography of Paul Feyerabend”. Why would some one title their life in such a way! I didnt even bother who the guy was and what was he into, I checked out the book.
A little bit of googling increased my curiosity for he was some professor in various universities with uncanny behaviour. He has put up this recollection of his life in his death bed and he didnt live to see to the book being published. Words from the people in deathbed, teaches you a lot about how to live your life.(Ex:Last lecture!)The book starts from his childhood (age 3) and travels chronologically. He starts by saying that he doesnt have a habit of keeping stuff and hence most of these thoughts are from memory.
Childhood: Born in Austria, he had strict parents who were also bit weird. The first few pages might be very difficult to digest !He was kept inside the home for most of his childhood and he was late to school.He also describes about the various books he read as a kid !”Between three and six I spent most of my time between kitchen and bedroom”.In school he excelled and his expertise outweighed that of his teachers. Physics and maths seemed to be a natural instinct for him.We learn about his views on good and bad teachers. But when the world is in war, irrespective of your nature, you will be forced to involve in it.
Fighting for Hitler: “He was the only face among faceless men.” – We get to hear about Hitler occupied Austria and Hitler’s charm. Paul was some one who has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and he would do anything to keep him in that pursuit.
“Because I want to read without being disturbed” – that was the reason for all things during war. He ends up being crippled in war and he desires to remain so, for its a more comfortable state for his pursuit rather than being a healthy man in the battle ground.
“One must learn to renounce simple pleasure and war is the greatest teacher“
Post war: Post war, after his own share of struggles he gets to the university to learn. We see him as a science student who is against philosophical discourses. Things take an interesting turn and we get to see how his thoughts evolve. He describes that his work was “unfinished ,tentative, without any overall purpose”.
“In a way I was waiting for my life to begin! -tomorrow, I thought , or next week or next year everything would fall in place. Meaning is something which doesnt guide your actions, but arises in the course of it.”
He keeps on going and suddenly we find these lines “My activities,interests , the things I wrote and attended begin to merge“. And from there events take a different course and he is a established young man for the world. He could earn and do what he loves to do, but finds out that he couldnt make love as other animals do. But that doesnt deter him from having girl friends. We see many women of various shades come in and go out of his life.
From here we get to hear his views on academia and his work in the colleges in London, Bristol, Berkely,Yale and finally Zurich. In his later stages he could get tenure from any college he wished in the world.Starting from the sciences he gets to the philosophy of science and his work “Against method” breaks his life in ways beyond you could think of. There are lessons to be learnt here on how to treat yourself different from your work.We get to learn highly evolved views on philosophy of science.
He as a loner all his life and enjoyed being so,placing high regards for intellectual pursuit. Towards the end of the life we see him as a sentimentalist and his love for the last woman in his life Gracia moves him to a different perspective. He values love and years to live to just be around her. They even talk about having kids!
And the book ends with those lines
“That is what I would like to happen, not intellectual survival but the survival of love!“-
That is an hard rocky mountain which was moved. I would rate this book and life as one of the best I have come across. Inspite of a busy week, I kept clinging to this book in piecemeals and it was the fuel which drove me. Even made me “Too excited to sleep” quoting in his style. If you had liked what you have read, then find some ways to “Killing time”.