I was nervous that I wouldn't know what to say, so I was relieved to find that he was eating dinner when I arrived. Now when I say he was eating dinner, what I mean is he was being fed. Sitting in his chair, draped with a large bib to catch the food that fell from his lips, I began to see Stephen Hawking in a new light.
Cara Santa Maria - a brilliant scientist, a brave person facing personal depression, a public figure and a pretty lady. Which mantle do you think most people dwell on when they look at her, or even speak with her? How often, I wonder, has she had to scale down her prose, push down the swell of her depression to help people get past the way she looks to see the multi-faceted gem, inclusions and all, that lies within?
Stephen Hawking - a brilliant scientist (who made quantum physics a best seller), a limp body trapping a hyperactive network of cognitive activity, a man with the drives of a man but no way to satiate them. How often have people, even those cognizant of his genius, treated him like an object rather than a person?
I won't lie; my eyes welled up a bit while I read this piece. I've faced many a communication challenge in my life. I have some idea of what it's like to have so much you want to share but for whatever reason, be restrained from doing so. I know the frustration and stigma a chasm of the personal can cause, for both sides. Cara Santa Maria beautifully captures the tragic poignancy, the almost-meeting of spirits, if not as much minds, through the relatively short time frame of her encounter with Hawking.
Her writing reminds me of a favourite line from Jack Kerouac's On the Road - "We tiptoed around each other like heartbreaking new friends."
If two minds as beautiful as these can't bridge that simple, human gap, can any of us?
When I got home that evening, I cried. Not because I felt sorry for him, or because I realized what it is that I probably take for granted every day. I cried because I felt a fundamentally human urge to connect with this man -- an icon of brilliance in a world sorely lacking -- and I simply couldn't figure out how. Yet, I will hold onto the memory.
So long as we make the effort, there will always, always be something that's shared - even if it's just a new way of seeing ourselves.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE: Hey Glenn, the kid's a person and he's in the damned room!