What can Stephen Hawking teach us about the big questions in life?
“As long as there is life, there is hope.”
-- Stephen Hawking
While studying cosmology at the University of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking’s nerves began to shut down. This meant his muscles were becoming useless.
He was 21. His doctors gave him two and a half years to live.
But Stephen Hawking survived for another 55 years. He didn’t seek anyone’s permission to survive, he wasn’t waiting for the proclamation: You are cured.
He had a realization within himself, that even if he was going to live one second longer, he would be doing something with his life.
It was this mind-set that enabled him to live with wonder defining his life, not the disease (he didn’t have time to think about that).
Even when he lost his voice for good in 1985 following a tracheotomy, he began to use a speaking program invented by a computer programmer in California, which allowed Hawking to select words on a computer screen which were then passed through a speech synthesizer.
Eventually, Hawking lost full control of his body, but that didn’t stop him either. He continued to use the program with the last muscle on his body (a cheek muscle) attached to a sensor.
There is a Stephen Hawking in each of us. A passionate seeker, relishing the bliss of wonder, unstoppable, self-resurrecting contributor to community.
Ramadan is sometimes described as a time of austerity (with food and exuberance), but no one can deny that it is indeed a time of wonder.
What are we?
Where are we?
Why are we here?
Where did the universe come from?
Are we alone?
Can we travel through time?
In 2016, Stephen Hawking took on these questions and created a television series titled Genius for the curious around the world. After Maghrib, before Isha’a, an episode might just be the fuel (hope and wonder) for Tarāwīh.
While some of these questions are answered in the Qur’an, Islam’s greatest contribution to science, according to physicist Jim Al-Khalili, was keeping religion and science seperate.
Shireen Pasha is Berlin Bureau Chief, Dhaka Tribune.