Hawkins- light in a dark hole?
I don’t know why but for some reason Hawkins’s death got me feeling all kinds of feelings. I certainly don’t know him personally, I’m not even a physicist (although how I would have loved it if I had had an opportunity to take physics classes at uni!) and although I try to read about relativity because i know Hawkins’s work on dark matter builds on that, I don’t quite get it.
But his death got me thinking about his motor neuron disease and about other non famous people who unfortunately have it, our mortality and how strange and scary it so to think that at one point we will cease to exist, his amazing story but also how difficult his life must have been behind the scenes and his fascinating and complicated love story-loosely adapted in to the movie the theory of everything. His curiosity (and his continued curiosity) on the origins of the universe despite his ailment is truly impressive and I know that’s what everyone has been saying so I’m not saying anything new. Of course not everyone has Hawkins’s mind and so I wonder how terrible it must be for other ordinary people with ALS (not that it wasn’t terrible for Hawkins of course), and I can’t’ imagine how tough it must be to find something to be passionate about in that state. That of course leads to the million dollar question as to why God would put someone in the “dark hole” of a motor neuron disease, or the general question as to why terrible things happen in this world despite the divine presence.
Well, it’s very difficult to understand why God would give someone ALS, but on discussing this with my mother i realised our image or idea of God is very limited. It is hard to remove the image of God as some kind of super hero/ Father Christmas figure from our heads. Perhaps God’s mercy is present even with patients with this kind of illness although it is extremely difficult to comprehend this as our very definition of someone having mercy on us is essentially someone relieving us from pain and suffering. God’s mercy is not the same as a human being’s mercy. I guess it is not the same kind of mercy because it is far bigger than what our minds can comprehend. But despite what I’m saying here, this is certainly a topic I struggle to come to terms with. If anyone ever reads this, please tell me in the comments section below what your thoughts are on the matter.
I also wish I had become more interested in him when I was a child and had eczema. At the time, I thought I was a terminally ill patient and didn’t want to go to school even though I could walk, talk and enjoy the pleasure of food. I wish I had complained and fussed just half as much. But of course we only realise stuff later on…
Another thing that struck me about his life was that his complicated love story (I know how much he must hate people focusing on that instead of his work) wasn’t the typical terminal romance story we see in movies like the fault in our stars, a walk to remember and irreplaceable you where the sick individual in the couple simply dies while the coupe is young resulting in a bittersweet ending. Here, the patient survives until old age and the coupe has to deal with couple life together with a serious condition. I think the fact that they don’t end up together forever, for the first time shows that the partner to a person with a serious condition is human after all and has his or her limits too. Although we love to think about love in a couple till death, people change, circumstances change and feelings change too although of course that’s not what people want to hear in a love story.
His death also got me thinking about belief and scientists. Most of us believe simply because we are brought up to believe and we rarely question our beliefs. A scientist is constantly questioning how the universe works. If at some point in his research Hawkins or any scientist was agnostic even for a second, in the midst of research suddenly considering the hand of a higher power, I feel that moment might be more real and more meaningful than a lay person’s belief rooted in what he or she heard as child in the mosque/ church or any religious institution as the scientist came to this conclusion himself/herself through years of study and deep contemplation. But then when I think about it, the lay person’s belief comes through a place of love and a scientist’s belief is through reason and both ways are perhaps equally valid.
A the end of the day, although his death was sad, he had only one or two cheek muscles working and his quality of life was so low, perhaps his passing was a mercy even though it saddens one to think that his last wish to go to space could not be fulfilled. I will end with a comment I read somewhere on the internet that deeply struck me: “now Hawkins will know if his most wildest imaginations on the origins of the universe are true!”