Erdös should also be remembered for his belief in The Book.
He would often speak of a book in which all of the proofs of
all of the mathematics in the universe is kept. In this book, every
proof is as compact, beautiful and elegant as it can be. It is mathematics
the way we would like to see it, the genetic code of the universe written
down in all its perfect simplicity.
The idea isn't a new one. Borges writes in The
Library Of Babel:
To me, it does not seem unlikely that on some shelf of the universe
there lies a total book. I pray the unknown gods that some man -- even
if only one man, and though it had been thousands of years ago! -- may
have examined and read it. If honor and wisdom and happiness are
not for me, let them be for others. May heaven exist, though my place be
in hell. Let me be outraged and annihilated, but may Thy enormous Library
be justified, for one instant, in one being.
To say that something was "close to The Book" was the highest
praise Erdös reserved for a proof. Just after Erdös died, Joel
Spencer, a frequent co-author with him and his usual "roof"
(place to stay) when he was in the NYC area, told me that Erdös was fond
You don't have to believe in God, but you should believe
in The Book