In the political and government arena, the word is laissez-faire–a term suggesting the practice or doctrine of noninterference in the affairs of others, especially with reference to individual conduct or freedom of action. I’m looking for a word that would describe such a thought or action within a person’s own mind and psyche–a word that describes persons who have so little motivation that they seem to have bought into the term laissez-faire for the connection between their bodies and the world around them…
what comes to me is what I will accept…I have little or no control over that…I have no motivation…what someone pokes into my mouth, I will eat…what shelter springs over my head, I will snuggle into…into what job might float my way will I invest an hour or two…on any day I am free from pain, or discomfort, or disability, I might give back a little to the world around me…
Is there a distinct word to describe such human beings? If there is, someone let me know, and I will tell you promptly Professor Stephen Hawking is the antithesis of such a word. I have written of him before–here and here, and anytime I study him I am struck with his incredible intelligence. Profound, though–even exceeding the brilliance of his mind–is that despite his severe physical handicaps, Stephen Hawking is a scientist of highest regard who is involved in intensive research and who is seated in the halls of higher education. Despite his being virtually unable to move or to speak as the result of a motor neurone disease, he is responsible for a large body of sterling work. He is amazing.
This morning, I found that Land Salmon had compiled this list of interesting quotations by Professor Hawking.
10. “Einstein was wrong when he said “God does not play dice”. Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”
9. “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.”
8. “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
7. “I find that American & Scandinavian accents work better with women.” In response to a question about the American accent of his synthesiser.
6. “Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales. In the end, however, I did put in one equation, Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2. I hope that this will not scare off half of my potential readers.”
5. “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”
4. “To show this diagram properly, I would really need a four dimensional screen. However, because of government cuts, we could manage to provide only a two dimensional screen.”
3. “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”
2. “The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”
1. “Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end.”
From Stephen Hawking’s website is this interview.
Why do you feel you have been given celebrity status as a scientist? Do you think your disability has a bearing on that?
I’m sure my disability has a bearing on why I’m well known. People are fascinated by the contrast between my very limited physical powers, and the vast nature of the universe I deal with. I’m the archetype of a disabled genius, or should I say a physically challenged genius, to be politically correct. At least I’m obviously physically challenged. Whether I’m a genius is more open to doubt.
How do you deal with the way you are described all the time by journalists?
I don’t pay much attention to how journalists describe me. I know it is media hype. They need an Einstein like figure to appeal to. But for them to compare me to Einstein is ridiculous. They don’t understand either Einstein’s work, or mine.
What do you say to the comment “isn’t it a shame that such a brilliant mind is trapped inside a useless body”?
I have never heard anyone say isn’t it a shame that such a brilliant mind is trapped inside a useless body. If I did, I would treat it with the contempt it deserved.
Does being known as brilliant make a difference to the way you are treated as a disabled person?
I generally find that even people that haven’t heard of me treat me well and are helpful. I’m not sensitive, if occasionally they patronise me, I just feel it’s their mistake.
Does being disabled make a difference to the way you are treated as a brilliant person?
Being disabled, or physically challenged, makes no difference to how my scientific colleagues treat me apart from practical matters like waiting while I write what I want to say.
When did you first become interested in Physics and why?
I was always interested in science and how things worked. From about the age of 15 I concentrated on physics because I felt it was the most fundamental of the sciences.
Would you say being an astrophysicist is a good job for a disabled person?
It would be difficult for someone that is disabled to be an observational astronomer. But it would be easy for them to be an astrophysicist, because that is all in the mind. No physical ability is required.
Can the study of Physics take you beyond physical limitations?
Of course Physics can take one beyond ones limitations, like any other mental activity. The human race is so puny compared to the universe that being disabled is not of much cosmic significance.
Wouldn’t you rather have been a bus driver or something?
I never wanted to be a bus driver but I did fancy being prime minister. However, I’m glad I left the job for Tony. I prefer physics to shaking hands and I feel my work may last rather better than his.
What would your advice be to another disabled person wanting to be a physicist?
I can recommend Theoretical Physics as a career for a disabled person. Of course, they would have to be interested in physics and fairly good at it.
Given that you are a scientific genius do people still address questions to your PA? If yes what do you say to these people?
I’m very glad if people address questions to my PA. I don’t have time to answer them all.
What about the practicalities of life? Do you find that the business of organising your personal care cuts into your thinking time?
My personal care takes quite a lot of time. On the other hand, I’m excused from undergraduate teaching and most committee work. So I get a reasonable amount of time to think.
Have your working surroundings and colleagues had to adjust to incorporate you as a disabled person? If so how?
My university department is housed in an old printing works but it has been fitted with an entrance ramp and other adaptations for my use. The department will shortly move to a new building and I have been able to make sure the design is suitable. My colleagues have been very helpful. They treat me like anyone else, but help with my special needs. That is what I like.
If I had grandchildren within my reach today, I would gather them about me, show them pictures of Professor Stephen Hawking and tell them of his work. We would talk about motor neurone disease, and about laissez-faire and we would try to find the word to which Stephen Hawking is the antithesis.
My devotional blog is here.