Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Physicist Stephen Hawking's rules for life

The advice seemed simple enough. What made the bromides somewhat remarkable is that they were being offered by Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist who generally stays busy dealing with such weighty matters as quantum gravity and black holes.

On a recent evening news broadcast, Hawking, who suffers with ALS, is confined to a wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a computer, was being quizzed by Diane Sawyer about life and the Universe when the interview turned briefly to more personal things -- family, his wife and children.

Apparently Hawking can be a very straight forward sort of a guy when it comes to parenting -- in a poetic, Einsteinian sort of way. He has three rules for living that he's shared with his children about life, love and work. He also shared the advice with Diane and her audience.

The harsh metallic tones of his computer-generated voice couldn't hide the human nature of the code -- spend time looking at the stars, not at your feet; if and when you find love, hold onto it tightly; always work, it gives meaning to your life.

Hawking's daughter Lucy, a lovely woman sitting at his side through much of the interview, chuckled and told Sawyer that of course there was much truth in what her father had to say, but "if you're always looking at the stars, there's a good chance you're going to bump into a light post" one day.

Such is the problems with bromides!

Since I've been thinking a bit about life and work over the last year, ever since I walked away from the place with the printing press that I called home for several decades, I found what he had to say about work, ahhh, interesting.

There seems to be two huge camps of thought on the topic -- work is good; it keeps you active and alive and, as Hawking says, provides structure and meaning to life. And then there are the folks who argue that life is about a whole lot more than work, that one's career is mostly about making money to be able to do the real things you want to do with your time.

There's a bit of sense in each camp and the worth of both views seemed to come together in my mind while watching the Tony Awards the other night. Most of the winners, breathless and filled with thanks, spoke about how "lucky" they were to be working in a field they loved -- acting, singing, dancing, directing, producing.

They all had managed to find a way to make money, doing what they were passionate about in life. I imagine that Hawking feels the same sort of passion for his chosen field -- astro-nuclear-fusion-cosmological-stringy-theoretical physics and book writing.

The challenge, it would seem, is to find that thing -- accounting, baking, lawyering, painting, counseling, gardening, teaching, selling, plumbing, governing -- you're passionate about and then figure out how to make a living at it. So at this stage of the game, I think my choices are writing, phtography, painting or drinking. I know what I enjoy the most and do the best. Now if only I can figure out how to handle the headaches and dehydration.

WORDS OF WISDOM: Physicist Stephen Hawking (photo above) offers up some good advice on life, love and work.


  1. I think you will find that the woman next to him was his daughter Lucy.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.