Hardy, Ordine and Me (or You)

Or why you shouldn’t be useful ALL the time

If you think success is just money don’t read more and go for it, this article is not for you. But if you don’t… then give it a chance, I’m sure is worth reading!

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Gillaume Bolduc on Unsplash

During the pandemic I’ve seen there’re two types of people: the ones that have more time than ever, and the ones that don’t have time at all. Most of us have been forced to change our lives and all of us have been forced to change how we use our time. On one hand, I see people complaining because they’re not using all the free time more productively. On the other hand, people is complaining because they are using their time to take care of other people, and they spend so much time in that task that they aren’t productive any more.

Because of that, I feel it’s the best time to think about how you use your time. In this article I will encourage you to stop complaining and to start “wasting” it consciously. Start thinking now how you’re going to win your time when we came back.

Let me explain.

GH Hardy

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Godfrey Harold Hardy was an English Mathematician known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis. You maybe know him because Hardy was Ramanujan supervisor and he appear in the film “The man who knew infinity”. However, Hardy is also known because he never wanted to be useful. He was proud of doing Pure Mathematics, working on the World of Ideas and not focused on what can be applied to the real world.

I have never done anything “useful”. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world.

GH Hardy — Apology

That’s not completely true because his studies in genetics or integrals are nowadays applied. The difference is that he didn’t do these contributions looking to the final end or potential use, but because he thought it was interesting enough to explore. In abstract sciences as math, lots of contributions were made just for their one sake, and some time later, an applied scientist found them useful for a real world problem.

For me, Hardy wasn’t really saying he didn’t want to contribute to society, but that he wanted to contribute to the beauty and the knowledge, to the long term. You don’t have to be like Hardy, but, how much time are you using to create beauty? How much time do you spend in discoveries? How many things you do just for the pleasure of doing them? How many knowledge are you winning without a potential use in mind?

Nuccio Ordine

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Nuccio Ordine is an Italian Professor, Philosopher and one of the world’s top Experts on Renaissance and the Philosopher Giordano Bruno. I know him because of his book “The Usefulness of the Useless” where he argues for the utility of useless knowledge. The book is a compilation of thoughts and fragments of essays that exalts creating art and science for its own sake. It’s a complain for the gradual contempt to humanities in this utilitarian society, leaving them aside just because industry don’t need them.

The only truly beautiful things are useless, everything useful is ugly, because it is the expression of a certain need, and man’s needs are ignoble and disgusting, as is his wretched and infirm nature. The most useful place in the home is the toilet.

Theophile Gautier — Art for Art’s Sake

Ordine’s essay is mostly a complain about how our society is freaking out to measure everything. But the truth is that you can only measure productive things, you can only measure things that have a well predefined goal. We’re measuring the importance of a degree by the number of possible jobs students can find in Industry. We’re measuring the quality of education by the number of people getting a job. We’re measuring students by the number of correct filled exams. But we don’t care if a degree is important for the society itself or if the student is a good professional.

Is this wrong? For me is not. Until you forget which things you are measuring and how you measure them.

There’s a common statement in Business that says: “If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist”. And it can be true… but only for Business! Life is more than that. The other day I was reading Chip Huyen’s blog and she said that she is tired of hearing people that define theirselves by their work. For me this is the proof that our society only focus on what is productive. When was the last time you take a walk just for pleasure? When was the last afternoon you spend discovering new things? When did you read your last novel without taking into account the time you spend on that task?

And Me (or You)

Maybe you’re that kind of person that only wants a thing in the world. Maybe you have a passion just for business — and you just want to be useful — or you have a passion for art or philosophy — and like Hardy you don’t want to be useful at all — . Perfect then.

But for the rest of us, mixing productive and non-productive things is fundamental for life. I’m sure you’re most of the time productive. I encourage you to go out of hamster wheel and start thinking how to win a bit of your time. The goal is just to change the intention of some things you do.

I encourage you to start your own discoveries. To explore those things that you liked when you where little. Even Steve Jobs take a typography course for the sake of learning, and then he found it useful latter. Maybe you start something now that becomes your future. But don’t start it to be your future, just start it. Start learning, thinking, walking, drawing, writing. But do it just for the sake of exploration.

Those things will open your views and let you think in a more broadly way, they will give you new points of view. They will make you more critical, more open and creative.

Try to be useless sometimes. Stop measuring everything in your life and start wining your time.

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Myriam Barnés Guevara

Written by

Mathematician. Designer. Writer. Editor. Educator. Not always in the same order. Escribo también en español.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

Myriam Barnés Guevara

Written by

Mathematician. Designer. Writer. Editor. Educator. Not always in the same order. Escribo también en español.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn

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