‘Look up at the stars’

The world grew a little quieter on March 14, 2018 with the passing of Stephen Hawking.
Not grounded in anything defendable, I somehow thought Stephen would live forever–the champion of a disease that held his body captive for 55 years but not his mind.
“In my mind I am free,” Stephen said. And his mind soared amongst the stars in a universe he had an unlimited passion and curiosity for.
It has been on my to-do list for decades now, if I was being honest, to read Stephen’s book, “A Brief History of Time,” published in 1988. I’m fairly certain my brain isn’t up for the challenge, though I would like to give it a try.
Sometimes I picture myself as an elderly woman sitting at my desk, surrounded by mountains of books that I plan to read. I hope that is not the case; that I can read from that list every day, following Stephen’s example of challenging his brain, allowing curiosity a permanent residence to roam freely in Stephen’s intellect.
I love that Stephen maintained a healthy level of humour in his life. Would it not be easy to let go of laughter when faced with such daunting physical challenges, one might ask?
I’m not sure many of us could have kept up that fight and still been able to joke about the circumstances, the puzzlements, of our existence.
As many know, Stephen Hawking was born 300 years to the day after the death of Galileo. Perhaps the energy from Galileo’s mind was gathering info in the universe before descending and finding life once again within the cells of Hawking’s brain.
Hawking himself would have turned his nose up at such an idea, but such lovely notions tend to dwell within me.
Galileo, like Stephen Hawking, challenged the scientific minds of their time, thinking about what was not yet known rather than giving credence to what was known. It was that very curiosity that kept Hawking searching for answers right up to his death.
I struggle to solve why my can opener gives me such grief, without bothering to look for solutions, until the next time I require assistance with opening a can. Not cut from the same cloth, I’m thinking.
I think if we merely refer to Stephen as a single name, rather than having to qualify it with a surname, he will be remembered until time runs out. We’re all on a first-name basis with Galileo. I had to look up his Italian surname of Galilei.
I see now why we stuck to his first name. His parents could have used a bit more imagination when naming their infant son, but maybe in 1564 it wasn’t a priority.
Stephen Hawking had firm ideas about the universe and about life, but he still engaged in conversation, in discussion, with those whose opinions differed. He relied on science rather than rhetoric to back up his ideas.
If I had to refer to one of his quotes more than others, it would be difficult to choose. But I think he summed up his observations in simple words when he said, “I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
We all benefited from his mind and from his courage.
wendistewart@live.ca

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