Friday, January 23, 2015


There are several lessons we can take away from the movie "The Theory of Everything". I watched it two weeks ago and found it very inspiring on many levels. I know I will never pick up Stephen Hawking's international bestseller "A Brief History of Time". I am just not that cerebral, nor into science or maths. You won't catch me reading "A Briefer History of Time" either, or "The Universe in a Nutshell". I would probably find them too intellectually challenging to digest. Nope, for me, nothing like an Oscar-nominated movie to get me all fired up to learn more about Stephen Hawking, reputed to possess the greatest mind on earth.

Here's what I took away from the movie, and from my googling about Stephen Hawking, the man, the husband and the father, NOT so much about Stephen Hawking, the cosmotologist.

1. Never give up 

Hawking's doctors gave him two to three years to live after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease, at the age of 21. He was then studying at the University of Cambridge. Today, he is still around and just celebrated his 73rd birthday on 8 January, 2015.

How long we live is not solely the doctor's decision, but also up to us (our lifestyle which is within our control) and God.

2. Knowledge is limitless

There is no such thing as "Been there, done that" or "You can't teach Grandma to suck eggs". Many older folks don't take well to advice or suggestions to learn new skills. They consider themselves already experienced and knowledgeable.

Lifelong learning is a journey that ends only with our last breath.

3. Celebrate life. Be thankful that we can wake up every morning to greet another new day.

Despite Hawking's physical limitations which could have easily driven a lesser man to bitterness and despair, Hawking maintained his sense of humor and was able to see the lighter side of some of his predicaments as when he lost the ability to speak and had to use first the spelling cards and later the speech synthesizer to communicate. In all his interviews, his wit and sense of humour is evident in his responses to the questions asked.

The ability to laugh and to look on the bright side helps to ward off self-pity and bitterness.

With first wife Jane in 1960s, and second wife Elaine Jason at their wedding in Sept 1995. Source: Daily Mail

4. Stay young-at-heart

Hawking never allowed ALS to rob him of the joy of being a parent. He had three children with his first wife Jane. He was close to all of them, and would often join them in their games, chasing after them in his motorised wheelchair to the delight of the children.

Having fun and being playful helps us to remain young-at-heart.

Hawking with Jane and their children in 1983. Source: Mirror

5. Never be idle

There is always something we can do and succeed in. Find it, and make it our driving force, our passion. When we enjoy doing something, it is no longer work. Don't just keep the hands busy, keep the mind active too. An idle mind is the devil's workshop. An active mind also helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

6. Quit being grouchy and grumpy

We know what folks say about old people - we are always finding fault and complaining about this or that. Whether it's the weather, the government, the younger generation, the cost of living, the lack of respect for the elderly, blah, blah blah - we have an endless list of things and people to complain about. How did we turn into such horrible grouches? We have ourselves to blame if others don't enjoy our company.

Smile more, complain less, and see what a difference that makes in our relationship with others.

7. Look beyond our physical limitations

As we age, it is inevitable that we slow down physically. Some of us will face health problems that may lead to a reduced quality of life and increased dependence on others to do things for us. Hawking never let his disabilities hamper his work or his life. He lost the ability to use his limbs, and later the ability to speak. For a professor who was still teaching at Cambridge, it was a huge blow. But he found a way to get around his many setbacks, thanks in part to technology, and to a fierce determination to beat all odds. Believe it or not, Hawking has not retired, and continues to give talks and lectures.

Update: Hawking passed away on 14 March 2018 at age 76.


Unknown said...

I watched a great documentary on Stephen Hawking a few years ago. He's a wonderful inspiration to young and old.

sgquek said...

Greatest mind in 21th century