“…concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing
well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled
in spirit as well as physically.”
Dr. Stephen Hawking
“Life and the Cosmos, Word by Painstaking Word” — not surprisingly, this New York Times headline immediately caught my eye and my attention. Most of us are blessed when it comes to sharing our thoughts in speech and on the page: Writing, reading, and speaking come easily. But for Dr. Stephen Hawking, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, communicating is a constant challenge. Yet, year after year, he continues to work, write, learn, and flourish. What an inspiration!
He shares his ideas and knowledge by using electronic sensors in his eyeglasses to convey instructions to a computer, slowly constructing sentences and then sharing them via a voice simulator. It’s a tiring and time-consuming way to speak or write, but it allows him to stay connected. Using these tools, he directs research, creates articles and books, and lectures to audiences worldwide.
One of his books, A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes, was a bestseller for two years and sold 10 million copies. To demystify the subject still further, he followed this popular success with A Briefer History of Time, which broke his themes down to a still more basic level.
When I think of this small, frail man with his incredibly agile mind, his creative, can-do spirit, and his relentless drive to share his ideas, I am in awe. I am thunderstruck, not just by his resilience, but by the richness and fruitfulness of words. It is words that connect Stephen to the world of science and to other people. It is words that allow him to express his humanity and mental agility despite his handicap. Words have such power — and they come so swiftly to most of us. How lucky we are and what wonderful use we should strive make of them. Write on!