Stephen Hawking and Laissez-faire

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.

Stephen Hawking in Jerusalem

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.

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My devotional blog is here.

6 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking and Laissez-faire

  1. Pingback: Stephen Hawking to Lecture at George Washington University « Shirley Buxton

  2. I had the great fortune of seeing Dr Hawking ‘speak’ about ten years ago in Chicago. He was on tour for his book ‘Universe in a Nutshell’ and it was the most unique and moving public speech I have ever seen. There were over 5,000 people utterly transfixed by a man who could barely move or utter sounds, but we all hung on every word that came out of his speech synthesizer. What was most astonishing was how smoothly and eloquently he dealt with a question and answer session at the end of the presentation. A truly amazing individual indeed.
    -WD

    I’m definitely envious of your having seen Dr. Hawking speak, and I’m not surprised it was such a moving experience. The man is amazing. I hope I get the chance to hear him some day.

    He exemplifies the truth of these two observations:

    1. Although it flies in the face of American culture–and probably in much of the western world–the value of a human body pales in comparison to the mind and passion of man.

    2. I am justified in feeling little patience with those who perpetually conjure excuses to keep from working, from keeping their word, and from being committed to goals that will lift them from their low existence.

    I appreciate your involvement in my discussions.

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  3. Esther

    Back to the question you asked:
    The best way to discribe people with no drive is “Lazy mind”. Not only the body but the mind does not want to go to any trouble to do anything. And obviously these people do not embrace The Holy Spirit. I don’t think The Lord wants to dwell in a Lazy mind. My 2 cents.

    How does one get over having a lazy mind? Is that person born that way?

    Like

  4. renaissanceguy

    I share your admiration for Hawking, although you probably know more about him than I do. My mind tends toward less scientific stuff.

    Perhaps the word you are looking for is apathy or lethargy or passivity or stolidity. I’m not sure if any of those quite fills the bill, but they are close.

    Hi, R Guy. You’re right, probably any of those words would work. They all certainly describe the mindset of which I am thinking…and certainly Mr. Hawking is exactly the opposite. I do so admire him. Thank you for your help here.

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  5. Sis. Buxton:
    I have enjoyed some of Dr. Hawking’s lighter writing, those more for the layman. I very much honor a man with or without being physical challenged (pc) who is able to inject such knowledge into our society.
    I do very much agree with the fact that in this society, right now today we except people by appearance rather than ability, skill, knowledge or another factor except appearance. We, as a society, look for thin and beautiful as the excepted standard. NO!! This is not right, but it is the way it is.
    Now for the question.
    How do we, as a society, bring about change?

    Mervi

    Hi, Mervi. One of my favorite stories (don’t recall where I first read it) that I believe I may have used in one of my posts will serve as an answer to your timely question.

    On a lonely beach, on a stormy day, where hundreds of starfish has washed ashore, a man was observed picking up starfish, one at a time, and flinging them into the sea.

    “What are you doing?” the observer asked the man.

    “I’m saving starfish.”

    “But there are so many,” the observer responded. “You can’t save all these starfish. It won’t make any difference to the situation, here.”

    The first man bent over, picked up another starfish, and flung it far into the foaming water. “It will to this one,” he replied.

    That’s my answer, Mervi. We can’t take care of all the world’s problems, we can’t teach wholesome principles to the entire world. We must do it one at a time–with our families, our neighbors, and those who read our writings on our blogs, in our articles and in our books.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Like

  6. Esther

    What an amazing man Sis. Buxton. I have read about him from time to time.
    The best thing about gathering grandchildren around and talking about him, is to prove that you don’t have to be strong, good looking, rich or anything else in order to accomplish what you desire to become as adults.
    The same applys to love. When I look at pictures of me and others, as young people, then pictures of us today………….it just proves that the inner person is so much more important than the outward looks. Someone could be sooo beautiful or handsome when young, but EVERYONE gets old and the looks go away. Bottom line: when choosing a mate, go for the beautiful inner person. Kind of off the subject but in a way it is related. Love ya’

    Hi, Esther. Not off the subject at all. As a whole, though, our society leans toward the criteria of looks to determine the worth of someone. Have you seen studies that prove this? Even in the workplace, a person’s appearance is a serious factor in determining who is even hired for a particular job. You’re right–it certainly is far from the most important. Our brain, our motivation, our heart–all these far supersede our appearance.

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