Pi Day, 2018: a sad day for nerds everywhere. It was “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out” when I read the news…
Stephen Hawking has died.
Now, I don’t claim to be a huge fan of physics. I’ve never read any of his work, and if I did I’m sure I’d be lost just perusing the forward, let alone delving into the inner workings of the mind of this incredibly brilliant man. I can kindamaybesorta understand the Schroedinger’s cat theory of physics. Kinda. Maybe. Sorta. But black holes and the universe as a whole? That’s wayyyyyyy beyond my comprehension. So why does it make me sad that Hawking has passed away?
I think I’ve figured it out. He was more than just a physicist. More than an theorist. More than the sum of his IQ. He was humorous. He put a smiling face out to the world when it must have taken all his effort to do so. He freakin’ guest-starred on a sitcom about nerd and geek life, not to mention the Futurama and Family Guy voice-overs. This was a guy who could take his disability and say yeah, it sucks, but I’m not going to let it be the be-all and end-all of who I am. Was he as well known for his disability as he was for his science? Yeah, but I think that’s more society’s fault than his own. I mean, he has no control over what perceptions people choose to focus on when they think about him. Human nature sucks sometimes. We zero in on the oddities and abnormalities and oftentimes overlook the light within the shell.
Where will Hawking’s light go now that he’s gone? He may have had a scientific mind, but the afterlife is kinda a personal ambiguity that is, in my opinion, unique to the individual. Are there fluffy clouds and angels and saints? Is it as empty and inescapable as a black hole? Are both true? I think that, for the sake of sanity, those are questions best left to each person to figure out and reconcile in their own way. I don’t know Hawking’s personal thoughts on the matter of life after death; I don’t know if he believed in an afterlife in the religious sense or if he was of the school of thought where we’re born, we live, we die, and we rot. And to be honest? I don’t care. That’s his afterlife. That’s where he chose to go, what he chose to believe, and if it gave him more comfort in life to believe that his mind ended when his body did, then so be it. More power to him. I for one will let my imagination wander a bit on this. I’d like to think that now he has answers to all the questions he ever had in life. I’d like to think that, free of his body’s limitations, he can now travel the galaxies and actually witness the inside of a black hole. I’d like to think that he knows now how accurate his theories were. I’d like to think that wherever or whatever he is now, he’s at peace.
I’m not quite as torn up as I was for Carrie Fisher’s death. I’m sad, but I’m not sobbing. A little tearing up, but that could be allergies to be honest. Maybe a little dry eye. Regardless, a great man is gone and it sucks that he had to go, but it’s great that he had the life he did. He was able to continue to use his mind even when his body betrayed him. He had the fortune to live in a time when technology could advance enough to prevent him from being completely trapped inside himself. It makes me a little verklempt. Okay, so maybe it’s not allergies. Or dry eyes.
The Age of Celebrity Deaths is far from over. We’re so immersed in the lives of our favorite celebs/public figures that we forget that we don’t always personally know them; we mourn as though we were present for all those media moments that awarded Very Important Person a spot in our hearts. The knife of death cuts deeper each time, but we’ve got to remember that every celebrity in history eventually comes to the same end we all come to. Some more violently and tragically than others, true, but it happens. Media saturation just makes it seem sadder than it has to be.
As I ponder these things, I think about my own eventual demise. Oh, don’t be like that; again, it happens to us all. I have no intention of speeding up the process by any means, but I need to start maybe living a little more. Write more. Make more art. Leave my own little mark on the world. Who knows? Maybe some day, in some distant future, some blogger fan of mine will be doing some pondering of their own as news of my passing reaches the media. They’ll be sad, they’ll tear up a little, and they’ll write up their own tribute that I’ll never get to read.
Or will I?