Saturday, 7 March 2015


'The concept of heaven is a myth,' said Stephen Hawking, who shares his birthday with Elvis Presley and David Bowie, thought I'd just throw that in.
Such a notion is 'a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. We are each free to believe what we want, and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no after-life either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.'
Who would presume to argue with a man who thinks in eleven dimensions? After you. I'd been resisting 'The Theory of Everything', having found his wife Jane's published backward glances harrowing enough - how in heaven or on Earth did they manage, and with three kids - but finally today, still dreading it, I succumbed.
We know the bigger picture: the brilliant cosmologist and theoretical physicist, the modern Newton, the latter-day Einstein, struck down in his prime by illness that crippled everything but his brain; who gave us the Big Bang theory of how time and space began; who suggested our Black Hole ending; who blinded us with the science of Hawking Radiation. Most of us bought a copy of A Brief History of Time when it was published originally. Few of us got beyond the third chapter, if that. I used to leave mine on the top of the pile on the coffee table, to kid potential boyfriends that I was bright.There's a good deal I'd like to know about Quantum Theory and General Relativity. I knew I wouldn't find it in this film. Just as well, perhaps. This level of science is beyond me.
I'm limp at films, too. I can't be doing with horror flicks or action pics, or thrillers, or weepies, or most comedy. The murder-mystery-suspense genre leaves me dry. I am unhinged to the point of apoplexy by directors and screen writers who adapt novels I have loved, but who confound things by changing the ending. What for? I never expect much at the cinema. I go infrequently. I saw Meryl Streep in 'Sophie's Choice' in 1982, and cried for three weeks. I managed 'The Imitation Game', and adored Cumberbatch, but was irritated to read afterwards of the movie's infidelity towards Alan Turing's true life story. I was sorry for Benedict when he didn't bag the Oscar, but, having seen Eddie Redmayne's performance today, it was beyond inevitable.
There is little praise I can add to the downpour that has drenched Redmayne. At 33, he has already given the finest performance of his life. He is perhaps Ben Kingsley, post-'Gandhi'. Nothing he does in future will ever match up.
His minute observation of Hawking's gradual deterioration as the ALS (a form of Motor Neurone disease) consumes him, is agonising to watch. The compensations are never rammed home, but are clear: his new-found ability to see equations in geometric terms; his learning to communicate through a speech-generating computer, albeit in an American accent; the long-term devotion of a determined and selfless wife (Felicity Jones) who gave the best years of her life before his head was turned, not by a paralysed muscle jerking miraculously back to life, but by a flirty nurse. He divorced Jane, and married Elaine. Then divorced her, too. Rumour has it she used to beat him up. The police were involved at one point, but Hawking refused to press charges. Nowt so queer.
The doctor who diagnosed his illness when Hawking was 21 gave him two years. Yet here he is, 73, still writing, publishing, professing. Still reaching for the stars. Maybe wishing on them. Still hell-bent on flying to the moon, one day.
He posed his famous open question on the 'net in 2006.
'In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race survive another hundred years?'
He doesn't know the answer to that.
What he knows, as we know, is that we are under threat from 'sudden nuclear war, a genetically-engineered virus, other dangers we have not yet thought of.' He believes space exploration and the colonisation of space to be vital for the continuation of the human race. He affirms that the universe is governed by the laws of science.
'The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.'
Perhaps he has reconciled himself to the concept of God after all. The 'theory of everything'? All relative.

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