When faced with a problem, the instinctive notion is to look at it as an obstacle. Very few people have the courage to look at it as a challenge. This is despite the complexity/simplicity of the problem that faces them. One such person who saw every obstacle in his life as a challenge to overcome is Stephen Hawking. His life itself is an inspiration (I am sure to many) for me. When diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) he focused all his energy into doing what he loved doing the best which was to keep going, and went on to do quite a lot. His contributions speak volumes about the person that he was. To smile while living with ALS, having to depend on someone to do even something as basic as getting out of his bed in the morning, is something that should teach us all to be appreciative of the comfortable life that we are all blessed with and be thankful for it.
Hawking compared black holes to depression, making it clear that neither the black holes or depression are impossible to escape. "...black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly to another universe. So if you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up; there’s a way out,” he said.
On the day Stephen Hawking’s passing away was known to the world, my daughter, 10 yrs old, came back from school and we discussed about what they did that day in school. Of course, the school had discussions and activities centering around Stephen Hawking and his work. I happened to be reading the article on his message on depression and we both came across the quote he had made:
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
“Mom, what does that mean? I remember reading another quote which says ‘Reach for the stars, you will at least land up in the moon’. Do both signify the same thing?”
“Not really. The one about reaching to the stars means, aim as high as possible. Even if you fail to reach your target and fall short, you will still fall at a much higher level than where you started. The one made my Hawkings has more to the quote than just aiming high”.
“So what does it mean?”
“Just defining the words that makes the sentence, it means that do not look down on the floor and below your eye level, rise your head high and look up into the sky and be curious about stars and beyond. Now if we go deeper and try to interpret it in the context (of depression), then he means to say that you should not crib about the problems and obstacles that you face in your life but always be eager to know more about life and the reason for our existence and turn every obstacle into a challenge to be overcome; like the tree stump that grew around the fence (obstacle in its growth path) that we saw on our way to your school. Be curious about everything but safely. Love what you do - the work that you do whatever it might be - as the work you do gives you a reason for the life that you live and without it there is nothing. Lastly, be thankful for being surrounded by loved ones who are willing and able to help you in your time of need.”
“So very true Mom. We should not be mean to ourselves by always being sad. We should try to not be rude to others and be willing to help them out whenever they need help. How difficult it must have been for him but he still did so much.”
Being able to inspire children with the life he lived, I think, is one big achievement as it helps shape the next generation that is going to take over the world. Nudging them in the right direction with the right attitude is a job well done. I am thankful to him for enabling me to have this conversation with my daughter and instill the quality of “Never giving up” by quoting his life itself as an example. He was and still is an influencer because of all that he accomplished not just in his professional life but also due to his attitude to want to ‘keep going on’ by looking at every obstacle/problem in life as a challenge to overcome and make a positive and meaningful contribution to the world that we live in.