Paul Hoffman's biography of his namesake and second most prolific mathematician of all time is a wonder-read.
As a physics student, I loved and extensively shared the Science Ladder, which could be expanded indefinitely downward to include academic endeavors outside science, placing theoretical physicists at the very top, followed by experimental physicists, chemists and biologists. Mathematicians like to remind us that they're so far above they simply don't show on the charts.
And I agree wholeheartedly.
Six weeks ago, I graduated college with a degree in Physics. A year ago, I was certain I'd go straight to grad school. But then I didn't, primarily because I wanted to do something scary, get out of the comfort zone that academia was to me. And next week I start work in New York City. I'm scared - the good scared, like Rachel before she had Emma scared (yes I'm an international) - and so went around looking for advise on this whole real world thing. Then I realized that several of my favourite people have similarly switched gears; sometimes for good, sometimes not, but they've all come out happier than ever.
One of them is my uncle, who studied Marine Aquaculture, worked in Marketing and then Telecom, and a few years ago fully immersed himself in the study and practice of Reiki healing. When I saw him last week after a couple years apart, he was emanating that glow you always hear overtakes people who've found true happiness. Let's just appreciate that he's clearly extremely wise and knowledgable on the subject of spirituality and self-exploration? His goodbye gifts included Devadutt Pattanaik's treatise on Indian mythology, Myth = Mithya (and some earthy cotton wrap-around skirts).
Pattanaik got me at page one, where he notes that everybody lives a myth, a system of values and ideas not found anywhere in nature but derived from man's observations of it. Some myths are religious, others secular - like those of the nation, democracy (or the Divine Right, as the case may be) all the way down to human, women and animal rights. The harder it is for one to acknowledge the mythical nature of these beliefs, the more deeply they are embedded in them. Mythology, then, is the set of stories and figures that carry the spirit of the myth; they form its vehicle, allowing to visualize, however fantastically, concepts that are fundamentally just that - concepts - and elude characterization.
The book has the structure of a primary school text - chapter name, outline of goals, excerpt from relevant original text, cartoon image with captions pointing out key symbols and a medium-length interpretation of what the story and corresponding imagery are meant to convey. Each tale flows naturally into the next, a commendable achievement given the sheer size of the Hindu written tradition