“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” Stephen Hawking
Thanks to Abraham Lincoln (and his mother) for having a birthday that eventually became a holiday, which Maki and I took advantage of yesterday by catching a matinee of The Theory of Everything. If you haven’t seen it, just watch the trailer and see if you can keep your eyes dry.
Of course it is a remarkable story and the lead acting was phenomenal. We all know Stephen Hawking is one of the great geniuses of our time, in spite of his disability. The movie shows him starting out young and healthy as his body quickly degenerates with ALS, while trying to have a normal family with a wife and three kids. He overcomes the doctor’s initial prognosis of a mere two years to live, and continues life as a man of huge ideas who is able to communicate them beyond his physical ability…and is still working, let alone living, at age 73.
It was an inspiring film. Hope above all. A good attitude and the love of a family getting him through the hard times. Overcoming the most daunting odds. But I left the cinema completely exhausted. I felt exhausted for the wife, who stood by his side as she tried to raise babies and maintain a normal home around him. I took it too personally, as I am beginning to realize I often do these days: always trying to identify deeply with something that may not even be close to my story. Always wondering what I can take away, what I can learn. I thought about how charming Vernon can be on a good day, even though his brain is damaged. I thought about what a great thinker he used to be. (Ok, maybe not a ground-breaking physicist, but definitely controversial in a way I think Dr. Hawking would appreciate.) I thought about how much hope she had for her husband in the beginning and how caring for him and the household became increasingly difficult to manage over the years.
Its funny how two people can view the same movie so differently. Maki was inspired and thoughtful. I was tired and sad.
On the way home, Maki asked me why I was still crying. I said: “I just felt that it was so much like our story.”
He said: “What are you talking about? Its completely different!”
“How is it different?”
“Vernon is getting progressively better, where Hawking was getting progressively worse.”
I was startled by Maki’s words. Did he really still think that? A better question was when did I stop thinking that? I must have let these past few weeks take more out of me than I had realized.
Oh, I know, I know… Hope Springs Eternal. I’ll come back to it, maybe even tomorrow. But the idea of doing this for another 50 years doesn’t feel very invigorating to me. I obviously missed the point of the film. I told you I am taking things too personally.
I don’t know where this will all go. I don’t know how completely Vernon will recover. The doctors have told me the most recovery of a traumatic brain injury takes place in the first year. We are rapidly reaching that point and it still feels pretty slow to me, though I also recognize that in the eyes of others, he has come very far. Maybe there is a freedom in admitting I don’t know if he will recover much more than he already has. I don’t know that either. I guess I don’t have to.
I also don’t know if, like Hawking, Vernon’s greatest contributions to this world, have yet to be made. He deserves the chance to find out anyway.
Last night, I started this painting. She’s not anyone I know. It’s not supposed to convey or mean anything. But I’m sharing it because she looks exactly how I feel. She looks tired. She doesn’t look like she understands anything either…but she’s trying to.
And then there is this:
“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” —Stephen Hawking
So at least I’m in good company there. 🙂