I would like to to share my thoughts on the passing of Stephen Hawking. The renowned physicist and pop culture icon who expanded our boundaries of knowledge of the nature of the universe did so while fighting a lifelong battle with ALS motor neuron disease. His iconic electronic voice is the most famous piece of assistive technology for the disabled ever created. He passed away today March 14, 2018.
I was born with a genetic neuromuscular disease known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2. Like Hawking’s disease ALS, my own disease SMA affects the motor neurons. Also like Hawking, I’ve had a lifelong passion for science.
It might seem obvious that Stephen Hawking would be a hero and a role model for me but I was not always anxious to embrace role models. He earned that title with much difficulty. I used to be very cynical about so-called role models and the way that people with disabilities are portrayed as “inspirational”. Many disabled people militantly exclaim “I don’t exist to be your inspiration”.
I often felt that rather than being a role model, people who achieved greatness despite disability presented an unreachable expectation for me. Knowing that I could never live up to their achievements, I saw nothing about their lives to inspire or motivate me.
But eventually Stephen Hawking changed that for me. He helped me to understand that the purpose of a role model is not to get you to equal or exceed their achievements but rather to inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
I’ve written an extensive essay today on my feelings about Prof. Hawking, about my feelings about role models in general and how he became a true inspiration and role model for me despite my general cynicism towards role models. I invite you to read the essay on my personal blog.
For now the thought that comes to mind is the the famous Vulcan salutation “Live long and prosper.” With the odds stacked against him, Stephen Hawking did so and the universe is a better place because he did.
Here are some links to other articles about Stephen Hawking.
- Stephen Hawking on Wikipedia
- Stephen Hawking New York Times Obituary
- New York Times article: “6 Memorable Cultural Moments Inspired by Stephen Hawking”
- Stephen Hawking appears on “The Simpsons” — YouTube
- Stephen Hawking appears on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” — YouTube
- Stephen Hawking appears on “The Big Bang Theory” — YouTube
- “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” — Book on Amazon.com
- “The Theory of Everything” — Blu-ray and DVD on Amazon.com
- “A Brief History of Time” — best-selling book by Stephen Hawking on Amazon.com