One of my favourite things during my childhood was the nights spent lain on the lawn stargazing with my mother and sister. We’d watch out for falling stars and roaming satellites and she’d conjure story of other lives on distant planets. For a school project I dove into research about rocket design culminating with the Apollo 11; a pivotal moment as I was allowed to stay up and listen to the live radio broadcast of the lunar landing. Carl Sagan went on to capture my adolescent imagination, and in no small thanks to his revelations, I often had those perception-altering, heart-stopping, breathless moments of awe, wonder and bewilderment as I went through realisations of where I, of where we are – and tried to grasp the scope and grandeur of these things, called galaxy, universe and space.
I was never particularly spectacular at math, although I did have some mysterious affinity for circles and negative space. At the time, I attributed it to having to do something with being a dancer. Now I attribute it to nature, having removed myself from the equation entirely. I loved the idea of Pi : the organic balance of it – the idea of a transcendental number with an eight decimal place value. It felt innately dance-able to my juvenile imagination and I’d spend hours on my parents’ driveway inventing choreography to its rhythmic placing of 3.14159265. In the momentum of a body in motion through time and air, it held for me its own form of infinity.
I first encountered Stephen Hawking when I opened a birthday gift; the book that made me truly consider, for the first time that God might exist and that it could be one to far outdo the restrictive construct of formal religion; of an imaginative force beyond our grandest kinds of reckoning. A Brief History of Time was also the first book to have me think about altered dimension of course, and if such expansive possibilities existed within the nature of space, what did it whisper of possibilities within the realms of our own physical and mental physiology?
Of all luminiscent minds which have shaped knowledge and shifted perception into realms of all that might be possible of ourselves, and shatter what we believe of probabilities, Mr Hawking stands uniquely between the older hierarchy of inaccessible scientific intelligensia and the opening out of Enquiry into the common-garden landscape of ordinary folk. His popularity is legion I believe, because he handheld us into Infinity – and then let each stand our own ground within its Pi-scapes, to make whatever it is we wished and wish, of that journey. And if Infinity assumes any visible manifestation within us, it has to be held within the boundless, and unfettered expanse that is curiosity and imagination.
Stephen Hawking exemplifies the art of the possible, against the extremest of odds. If we’re to show our appreciation by turn for such generosity, it should be that we become its custodians, by turn, of such a thing as a beautiful mind. It not by casual incident that the etymology of curiosity stems from ‘Curiosete’; “careful attention to detail”.
One could say: ” The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.” The Universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would be neither created nor destroyed. It would just BE.
from A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
That Stephen Hawking took flight into the universe on Pi Day, seems just the perfectly Tao way to go: Something tells me, Pooh would approve too.
From this small spec of dust suspended in a bean of light, thank you for your stay. Fare well.