Stephen Hawking died last night. After not only living a life that contributed in a unique way to the advance of science, but also outliving the portion of existence predicted to him by the daunting diagnosis of ALS some half a century ago.
Hawking beat the odds for his life expectancy and dedicated his life to demystifying the impenetrable secrets of the universe, not only highlighting that “where there is life, there is hope” but actually living this statement to the fullest by his personal example of adaptability, resilience, and agility of the mind.
Stephen Hawking was an example of the unwavering respect for life as it is, with its limitations that can be transformed into possibilities. He managed to show us what it’s like to rely on the never-ending resources of the soul that no kind of physical immobility can stop from moving in vital leaps of curiosity.
Stephen Hawking said that: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
And regardless of his limiting physical condition, he managed to fit into life in a way that was productive and life-loving. He remained enchanted with all that was existing in the unbiased and restless way that children are. Seeking to see. Seeking to understand. Understanding to tell. Telling to leave space for discussion. Discussing to leave space for growth.
He was more than a supremely gifted and tireless genius. He was a teacher. On how to approach life with curiosity. On how to use flexibility to adjust to what is going on around you. That is what growth and evolution are all about. Playing the hand you’ve been dealt with dignity and creativity. Persevering. Communicating. Educating. Doing better. And being better.
Another heart-wrenching, 3-stepped advice from Hawking goes like this:
“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
Hawking makes it clear that one must focus beyond the surface of one’s own life. Beyond the feet that might refuse to walk for the time being. But there are still so many resources one can use to keep on walking ahead, to keep on advancing towards knowledge, acceptance, and productivity.
Never giving up work is a very important advice – in an era where being on the beach and having money from one single extremely successful venture is the epitome of a great life. Instead of promoting single goals that produce perpetual comfort and zero obligations, Hawking instructed as to give. By working and exploring, by contributing. Because it is in the unrest of doing great work that we are alive.
“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny”, Hawking once said.
And in that simple statement lies the power of redefining your reality, of choosing how to feel about it and what to do with it – to the best of your present abilities. And by redefining our situation in a way that empowers us to laugh instead of grieve, we can reappraise the story and find wisdom in it, or wonderful possibilities, or even something funny that takes the burden of chasing perfect happiness down from our shoulders. Leaving us with what is it – which is ultimately all we ever really had. What we will do with it is up to us. Yet we can do anything. Just open your eyes and see.
And last but not least, Hawking taught us gratitude.
“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”
That is how Stephen Hawking described the years after his life-changing diagnosis and the inevitable progression of his disease. A bonus.
Because maybe gratitude is not a result of how many luck we have been given to being with, but a condition for feeling lucky. And actually being lucky enough. To have done. To have felt. To have lived.