Theoretically Speaking

00 Stephen Hawking

The universe lost one of its most significant stars today. Stephen Hawking’s departure from this atmosphere on Pi Day has left a hole in the world of theoretical physics and cosmology, but it has also provided me another opportunity to dwell on what really matters.

When Stephen Hawking appeared on the cover of Newsweek when I was a child, my sister and I would kiss his face and pretend to fight over who would marry him. When I grew up I married a different genius, but I held out hope that I could someday meet one of the most brilliant minds of my time. I knew how far-fetched this dream was. But when my son was accepted into Caltech, where Stephen Hawking was a frequent visitor and enjoyed eating Indian food with the students, I believed my dream actually could become reality.

Now it seems that I have to accept that the closest I was able to get to Stephen Hawking was walking on the same campus he occasionally rolled on. When I visited Caltech, I made a point of inhaling deeply so that any of his DNA lingering in dusty corners of the campus would become part of me. I also tried to inhale Einstein’s DNA because he also conducted research at my son’s school. I seem to have a thing for brilliant minds. When my kids and I were visiting Princeton, I desperately tried to meet John Nash a few years before he died and was so disappointed to find out that I had missed having an encounter with him by a matter of minutes while we were checking out one of Einstein’s meeting rooms on the school’s campus.

Today I find myself grieving not only the lost opportunity to interact with a great mind; I’ve also been mourning the relative decline of critical reasoning in America. The loss of this brilliant physicist reminds me that what really matters is bigger than the gravity of my president’s behavior. What matters is even bigger than this country’s political black hole that is swallowing us. What is truly relevant to our existence is the concept of expansion. I don’t expect everyone around me to be like Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, or John Nash. But, I do wish everyone in America would strive to take their focus off themselves and abandon their allegiance to a political tribe. If this occurred, we could expand our perspective and devote energy to loftier matters concerning universal existence—and potentially evolve into a better human race as we all reach higher.


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