Sadness indeed. Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest stars in the Firmament for over 50 years, has died.
I confess I am not a cosmologist, and if the truth be told, I know no science whatsoever, as I had a classical education, and science didn’t even feature on the curriculum. It didn’t really bother me at the time. But then, out of the blue beyond, came Steven Hawking, and whether it was his immense fortitude in the face of a crippling disability, his immense intellect or just his eternal optimism, he was a media hit.
To most of us, Hawking’s greatest claim to fame was his book A Brief History of Time. It was a brave attempt to explain many of the great mysteries of life in layman terms, but for many, with only limited success. As one critic put it: “There are a lot of things easier than writing a book that nobody may understand in order to answer questions that most people weren’t even asking — and selling 10 million copies of it”. This year is the thirtieth anniversary of its publication. In passing, when I embarked on writing my first book May it Please your Lordship, I was advised by my literary agent to aim for 90,000 words before a publisher would even look at it. In the event, my mighty tome sold for £9.99. Hawking’s book ran to 60,000 words and sold for £14.99. You do the math as the Americans might say, so where did I go wrong?
As Hawking was the first to admit, it doesn’t matter which way you square the circle, God in all his various manifestations is always with us, and according to the Jewish faith, He created the world in six days. The creationist theory still holds sway amongst some sects of the orthodox Jewish tradition, and why not? The answer to that is the overwhelming body of scientific evidence in support of the Big Bang theory, where creationism finds no support whatsoever.
On any view, time continues to hold a morbid fascination for each and every one of us. We can save it, or borrow it, or lose it, or waste it. As we know, time and tide wait for no man. We have written about it, invented time travel in the Tardis, we have boldly gone where no man has gone before, and at the end of the day, it’s time gentlemen please.
Stephen Hawking’s death reminds me to finish his book, which I determined to do all those years ago when I first bought it. I know I won’t understand it all, but I hope to add to my store of knowledge and build upon it. As Hawking once said: “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
Whatever else, Hawking strode the stage of life, and strode it like a Colossus. Requiescat in Pace.