Vale Stephen Hawking
I’m guessing you’ve all heard that Stephen Hawking passed away this week.
I’m going to miss that guy, and I’m really going to miss what he brought to the cultural fabric of Western Society.
Hawking was that “physicist in the wheel-chair” guy. I’m sure you know him. He’s a cultural icon.
Which is pretty amazing when you remember he’s a physicist. There are a lot of brainy and amazing people on the planet. But only a handful ever achieve cult notoriety. Einstein, Hawking, Giaan… not many.
There was just something about Hawking that captured the public imagination. Yes, it was the wheel chair and his journey with Lou Gehrig disease (He was given three years to live in his early twenties) but it was more than that.
There was something profound and poetic about Hawking’s life mission. Can you imagine being stuck in your body like that? Not being able to do anything more than twitch your cheeks at times.
Can you imagine how intense that reality must be?
But then from within the cage of his body, his mind explored the furthest reaches of space. He totally reinvented the way we understood black holes.
There’s just something so beautiful and childlike about it – the way we’ve all gazed up at the stars with our feet sadly stuck on the ground. Hawking just took that too extremes.
In that way he embodied some of the most awesome aspects of humanity. Our ability to dream and wonder – the power of our imaginations. Our capacity to overcome any obstacles – to not be defined by the most intense and binding restrictions that fate might place on us.
It is nothing short of heroic.
And Hawking almost single-handedly redefined heroism. He was living proof that heroism wasn’t only the domain of the big, brave and hairy warriors. Anyone could live a heroic life.
In that way I think he was a wake up call to humanity. I mean seriously, what excuse have you got? That guy literally can’t move a muscle and he’s redefining the entire field of science. Time to pull the finger out.
That’s how I heard it any way.
The other thing that was great about him, was that he never seemed to take any of it too seriously. He brought that Einstein-like playfulness to his work and life.
And it is true that when he was first diagnosed with his disease, he was devastated. He became very depressed.
But he overcame that. He showed us that no matter what challenges you are facing, it is possible to still find joy in life, and to still find meaning and service.
And still possible to make a massive contribution to the human story.
That’s a role model that humanity desperately needs. He will be missed. It’s hard to not see it as a significant loss for the species.
And so I’ll leave the last words to him:
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
From the ‘master of black holes’ that’s something.