“If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.”
Before my condition I’ve never quite really saw anything worth doing in this world. I guess you start to see the world differently after going through an extraordinary condition. I was born as a healthy baby during the Second World War; it was quite dramatic I would say to have been born while the Germans were bombing the daylights out of us. I was very interested in the sky, stars and science. My mother and my siblings would often along with me lie on the backyard on summer evenings and gaze in to the sky. I was mesmerised and the stars made me go in to deep thinking.
During my school days you could say I wasn’t exceptional in learning. The best way to prove this is because I was third in my class from the “bottom”, if you get what I mean. I loved to play with my friends and we even devised our own board games. I and my sister Mary were great climbers, we used to climb from different spots and find various entryways in to our house. We were quite a quiet bunch also called “eccentric” by a family friend; we read our own books while eating with not much of a conversation. We had an old London taxi as our car and our house was a three storeyed fixer upper which wasn’t quite fixed!
I entered University College in Oxford University, I wanted to do math but they didn’t have a degree for math; I opted for physics more like cosmology. I wasn’t much in to studies still, but I have to say I got in to the rowing team! I was a cox. I started slurring while talking and sometimes I couldn’t move my fingers but I didn’t care that much. I gracefully, well should I say dutifully graduated from University of Oxford with a degree in Natural Sciences. I was off to Cambridge to do my PhD in Cosmology.
My dad noticed that I would occasionally slip and fall and the slurring in speech, I never told him before. He took me to a doctor. “They took a muscle sample from my arm, stuck electrodes into me, and injected some radio-opaque fluid into my spine, and watched it going up and down with X-rays, as they tilted the bed. After all that, they didn’t tell me what I had, except that it was not multiple sclerosis, and that I was an atypical case.” It seemed that I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; in a very simple sense, the nerves that controlled his muscles were shutting down. Doctors gave me two and a half years to live.
This is when I started to live my life. You see when you know it might be the last day tomorrow you learn to appreciate things and live better. I started working on my PhD and research far better than I ever will if I wasn’t paralysed. I was quite bored with life before, and now it seemed to have gotten shorter and gave me purpose. I started researching about black holes and how the universe began, it was mesmerising to me and memories of the backyard in summer were brought back.
I got married and with the girl I loved and had a baby too. By this time the disease has stopped working through in to my body and I guess I had more time to live. I was living my life better.
I realised that black holes aren’t just information vacuums, I figured that matter can escape gravitational field inside black holes by a collapsed star. This theory is for another time for me to tell you.
My state became bad and I slurred more in my speech and I lost total control of my body by 1970’s. This is when a computer programmer in California lent a hand to help. He had devised a technology which can interpret talking by just muscle movement of the eye or head. I use this now to communicate by a cheek muscle. It is after this that I published my book “A brief history in time” which was a best seller and topped the list in London Sunday Times for four years.
Listen, What I want to tell you is that life is short. Look at the hassle I’m going through; I’m not doing this to live for myself, because I don’t have much of a life you see? But the important thing is I see my life as a big accomplishment, I live each day because it gives me more time to do my work which I love. I have lived for 49 years more than predicted and by that I’ve enjoyed my life more. It gives me great pleasure to do what I do, to go deep in to the beauty of science.
I’m not asking you to embrace science. I’m asking you to give yourself a chance to live. Because most of us don’t understand the value of life until we are the rim of losing it. Work harder on what you love, there’s more space for genius in this universe.
Don’t live in a façade, we do not know where our life is headed. Get real and take chances, take risks, do what you can do best. Because;
“Not only does God definitely play dice, but he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”