I was reminded by Alissa, that we don’t usually do obits for people on this site, unless they were critical to the show, or the game. However, there were few guest appearances on The Simpsons, that had the “Cool Factor” that came with Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of the past century.
There is something simply fun about a man who spent his life trying to bring about a solution to the “Unified Theory of Physics” (a way to resolve traditional Physics with Quantum Physics), and playing a part in a show as irreverent and fun as The Simpsons.
For this reason alone, I was overjoyed when he became a character in our game, able to fly around our own little universes in a way he never could in real life.
It’s interesting to me that a man like Hawking could generate so much controversy with his theories. And I admit, I didn’t totally buy into his version of creation, although in later years, he showed a flexibility in the “what could be” that some of his contemporaries (Neil deGrasse Tyson as an example) seem to lack.
But his courage, in a life that could have, and perhaps should have been full of bitterness, was the thing that I respected more than anything else.
For those who have followed his career, or even just watched the amazing Oscar winning performances in the 2014, “The Theory of Everything,” you know that Hawking’s life was altered unimaginably, when he contracted ALS, (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This is a disease that can kill someone within a few months of diagnosis, and there’s only a 10% chance patients live more than a decade. So, Hawking living with the disease for more than 50 years, was a testament to both his determination to continue living, working, and thinking, but his amazing support team, including wives and medical support (who also became a wife in one case).
Some would argue that his personal life was less than enviable, and as the movie portrays, was certainly complicated (as was the life of his idol, Albert Einstein). But, along with Einstein, the way in which their theories altered the general direction of science, and particularly that of physics and astrophysics, is beyond dispute.
Never content, while continuing to dive deeper and deeper into the origins and workings of the universe, what I admire most about him, was his ability to admit when he might have been wrong, when new evidence or discoveries were made. But even his shifts in thinking (most famously changing his entire view of the existence of black holes), were further evidence that while our capacity for theoretical discovery is great, there is far more we don’t know about our own existence, than that which we can say is “indisputable.”
I came into my own interest in physics through a “side door” of my own experience with the after affects of an NDE. Hawking, along with physicist Paul Davies and theologian C. S. Lewis became my touchstones for understanding the wide-ranging possibilities of creation. And while I have studied and read hundreds of books and articles about this topic, I continue to appreciate what these men brought to the conversation.
Unfortunately, like politics, religion and other divisive topics, our creation and the nature of our existence is too easily divided into camps of resolute close-mindedness. A creationist’s view is really no more silly than that of the confirmed atheist…or more valid. The simple fact is, there are few “facts” in our existence, but rather realms of things we THINK we understand. Hawking knew this, and always kept an open mind to all possibilities, including that of the hand or mind of a creator in our earliest beginnings.
But, through all of my now 20+ year journey to make sense of what I experienced, there is an innate knowledge that “the answers” don’t/can’t truly come, until we shed the coils of this earthly existence, and finally move into the “next state of existence.” I am sure that there is more…but, I feel that the limitations of our humanity will keep us from being able to ever fully understand it.
But on a FAR Lighter note… Hawking’s appearances in the Simpsons were brief, but hilarious…
“Your theory of a donut-shaped universe is intriguing, Homer. I may have to steal it.“―Stephen Hawking
What is clear, is that minds like that of Stephen Hawking’s are rare…and the courage to persevere when handed a rotten hand by “fate” or God, even more rare.
But if “eternal life” is marked by the impression one leaves behind on those you touch, Hawking will certainly live well beyond the “time” that keeps us strapped to the traditional laws of physics.