Opinion 20: Show Up To The Weekly Colloquium and Try to Behave!

By Doron Zeilberger

Written: Dec. 1, 1997

Socrates said that one should always marry. If your spouse would turn out to be nice, then you'll be a happy person. If your spouse would turn out to be a bitch/bastard, then you'll become a philosopher.

The same thing can be said about the weekly colloquium. If the speaker is good, you'll learn something new and interesting, usually outside your field. If the speaker is bad, you'll feel that you have accomplished something painful, like fasting, or running a marathon, so while you may suffer during the talk, you'll feel much better after it.

Showing up to the weekly colloquium also reconsumates your bondage of membership in the mathematical fraternity whose tacit motto is: I'll let you bore me if you'll let me bore you. Unfortunately, so many bad speakers are even worse listeners, and they only come to their own talks.

So it is a sin not to go to Church on Sunday Morning (I mean Colloq. on Thu. [or Mon., or whenever] afternoon). But it is a much graver sin to read comic books during the sermon. It drives me up the wall to see people, during colloquiums, seminars, or conference talks, treating the speaker's voice like white noise, as though it was a radio or TV or air-conditioner. Many even do it flagrantly. Sometimes even the Colloquium chair [e.g. of a certain math department in North Philadelphia] is guilty of this crime.

So if you want to go to Math Heaven try to show up to as many colloquium talks as possible. If the talk is so boring so that you can't stand it anymore, G-D [and the speaker], will forgive you if you leave silently. But if you decide to brave it until the end, then try to stay awake [or at least not snore], and whatever you do, don't do your own work/reading/typing_on_laptop. It is much better never to show up to any talk than to come and treat it as background music.

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