Monday, February 13, 2006

Stephen Hawking

February 13, 2006, Observation:

A month has gone by since Jo Anne's foot surgery and she is doing really well.  I am very happy about this because the people that work the customer service desks taking back returned items have been getting nervous.  We have even received a few calls from Costco, Kohls, Robinsons-May, Ross, and Mervyns inquiring about her.  The girls at the customer service desks thought that maybe Jo Anne had passed on into the happy hunting ground.  We have assured them that all is well and that they can soon count on her returning to them once again, items she has purchased.

I haven't been able to get out of bed for 11 days now because of a pressure sore.  The wound specialist who is working with me tells me it may take another week or so of me staying in bed to give the sore sufficient time to heal.  It is amazing to me how it is possible to adapt to this kind of situation without going stir crazy.  Thankfully I am able to spend many hours each day working on my lap top computer which gives me a feeling of accomplishment as I endeavor to be as productive as I can be under the circumstances.  This experience helps me to further appreciate the fact that if our minds are sound and our spirits healthy that even though our bodies may not work as we would like them to, life can still be very good.

Some of you have either read the writings of, or heard of the great scientist, Stephen W. Hawking.  Stephen Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo's death in 1942. He has come to be thought of as the greatest mind in physics since Albert Einstein. With similar interests -- discovering the deepest workings of the universe -- he has been able to communicate almost incomprehensible matters not just to other physicists but to the general public. At the remarkably young age of 32, he was named a fellow of the Royal Society. He received the Albert Einstein Award, the most prestigious in theoretical physics. And in 1979, he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the same post held by Sir Isaac Newton 300 years earlier. There he began to question the big bang theory of creation, which by then most had accepted. Perhaps, he suggested, there was never a start and would be no end, but just change -- a constant transition of one "universe" giving way to another through glitches in space-time. All the while, he was digging into exploding black holes, string theory, and the birth of black holes in our own galaxy.  Two of my favorite quotes from his writings are: "Although science may solve the problem of how the universe began, it cannot answer the question: Why does the universe bother to exist? I don’t know the answer to that.”  [Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays] "Our earth is a medium-sized planet orbiting around an average star in the outer suburbs of an ordinary spiral galaxy, which is itself only one of about a million million galaxies in the observable universe.”  [A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes]

Still alive, he remains extremely busy, his work hardly slowed by Lou Gehrig's Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that affects muscle control) for which he uses a wheelchair and speaks through a computer and voice synthesizer; he lost the use of his voice a number of years ago.  He wrote: "I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things I cannot do which are not many...I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from Jane, my children, and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky, that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope."  [Stephen Hawking]

Though not in the same ballgame intellectually, I think I have a feel for where Stephen Hawking is coming from regarding the deterioration of his physical body.  His response to the question regarding how he feels about having ALS encapsulates perfectly how I feel about being paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support -- "How do you feel about having ALS [being paralyzed]? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things I cannot do which are not many..." I feel exactly that same way!

I believe that if we have a healthy mind and spirit we have everything.  The Lord taught Joseph Smith a valuable lesson regarding the proper perspective one should have regarding the balance between the physical and spiritual while living in mortality. The Missouri persecutions were just beginning; property had been destroyed but no lives lost yet.  Joseph, in Kirtland, Ohio, knew through revelation, as well as from information beginning to trickle in from Missouri what was taking place.  Preparing him for what was to come, the Lord revealed the following eternal truth: "Wherefore, fear not even unto death [don't ever be afraid of death, and I will tell you why] for in this world your joy is not full [as good as mortality may seem you will never know a fullness of joy in your present physical state] but in me your joy is full.  [Through the atonement and a literal resurrection you one day will experience a fullness of joy -- but not now.]  Therefore, [a very important preposition which means, everything I have told you up to this point being true, please do the following] care not for the body, neither the life of the body, but care for the soul and the life of the soul; [in other words, be careful about obsessing over the physical in your life.  Of course, don't abuse your body, and try to keep it healthy and clean, but make your greatest priority the nurturing and care of your spirit.  One day you will lay your body in the grave, but your spirit is eternal, and what you have done in caring for it will matter so much more in an eternal sense, than all the time and attention you have given to beautify and care for your physical body.]  And seek the face of the Lord always that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life."[The ultimate way to care for the soul] [Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-38]

Internalizing this perspective about life can make a difference in how we spend our time and order our priorities.  I personally know it to be a very significant and life-changing truth.


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