In my mind I am free
I consider myself to be pretty fortunate. It’s not that I have led a seamless life. It’s not that they had a canteen of silver spoons at the ready to shove into my gaping, greedy mouth at birth, it’s certainly not that life has dealt me no challenges. Not at all. I’ve lived a life. On occasions a seat of my pants-on-fire scorching my behind sort of life. But the thing is this. I embrace the challenges, I smile at the misfortunes because they make me the person I am now and they led me to where I am now and in the great scheme of things I am pretty damned prosperous …. which is not to say monetarily rich. I do not measure wealth and success in pecuniary increments. So although I may not do it immediately, I do always search for whatever the mechanism is that works to put whatever the adversity may be in a positive place and I do always get there in the end.
Around two months ago I went back to France for a quick visit to make sure my plants weren’t expired in my flat and my car hadn’t entirely given up the mechanical ghost. From there I flew to England to make less necessary checks on my ludicrously independent and gloriously enduring mother. And my daughters (the three out of four who live there) came and visited. One daughter (one more than I might expect) said it was a shame I wasn’t staying longer. I explained that I had an important follow-up appointment with my physician after my oncologist had delivered her verdicts. This left the said daughter entirely unmoved (we lived my cancer a few years ago which is hard on children of any age and it’s easier for them to button their ears to any talk of the on-going care I have, easier to imagine I am now immune. I am, after all, their indestructible mummy). So I mentioned an appointment with a bloke the same afternoon. This had the said girl-child herding me tout de suite to the airport to ensure I did not miss this incredible, enviable and priviliged opportunity.
So who was it that so impressed a 20-something? Who could it possibly be? Royalty? No. Hollywood A-lister? Nope. Rock legend? Nah. I cogetated this and I realised that there are only a tiny handful of people who could possibly engender such a response from pretty much anyone. A response that is mid-way between hugely impressed and achingly envious. The Pope might be one. The Queen of England another. The third and in this case the actual is Stephen Hawking.
I am seldom lost for words. This is a trait. A personality thing. I’m articulate and gregarious when the need arises. I write words down too and from time to time I believe they are almost coherent. But this day. April 19th 2016. In Cambridge Massachusetts I was humbled to the point of speechless. I had no concept of what to expect. The preparation that goes into getting this man into a room however big or small is immense. The deference with which he is treated I would mostly sneer at since essentially the circus is just that, an act put on for an audience who need to believe that this person is not of the same world as the rest of us. But in this case it is entirely justified. That he gave a talk that I mainly understood even though it was to an assemblage peppered with the greats of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard University; that he is brave enough to sit before any gathering, withered in his chair and at the effect of software to speak the words he has written for the occasion and the pregnant pauses in delivery that are inherent in the system; that he has such a self-depracating sense of humour. All of this I had not imagined even though I imagine I have quite a fertile imagination. I simply had not gone there. Which is the point. This is a man whose life should have been at it’s end at 21 years of age. He says everything else has been a bonus. And he has taken that bonus and run with it. I felt the withered insignificant teeny tiny little squib in the room. This was like listening to God (I have my own mish-mash belief system that does not allow for a single deity and which I need not share since it is merely mine). I came out of that room entirely changed. A better person. Purer. Which is the other point … the title of this weeks photo challenge is Pure. And this man, with his failings, with his warts, with his reliance on science to keep him going is about as pure a mind as I have ever encountered.
The picture I have selected to illustrate this fact is taken at altitude above San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. HB² (my husband to the uninitiated) built a tiny observatory there some years ago simply because he could. I love this. Just do it. Because you can. That is the Hawking way. You can if you will. Stephen Hawking may not have visited this observatory but he will surely know that you need the purest atmosphere to observe the stars. To find the answers he seeks. The answers we all silenty crave. The observatory is in the picture but you may not be able to see it. A man like Hawking sees what we cannot see, makes sense of what we cannot make sense of, delivers it to the world in a form that from Nobel Prize Winners to young children everyone can have a piece of. And that, if I may is pure genius.
And of course PS: Hawking is responsible for the quote in the title ‘Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free’ (‘How to Build a Time Machine’, 2010)… and that freedom is purety incarnate, surely and defines what I feel makes ME fortunate.
You can find all the other, laudible entries to the challenge ‘PURE’ right here
Wonderful and very cool!
Thank you Lynn – I feel very priviliged to have had the opportunity 🙂 x
So amazing!! xo
Stephen Hawking, hmm… name sounds familiar. I’m in awe of individuals that have conquered their own adversities and with seemingly little effort draw a group of strangers in and have them leave feeling life is good with endless possibilities. Great post!
May I rewind the tape a bit? The Dr.’s appointment went well?
He is awe-inspiring. On the richter scale of overcoming trials in life he is off the scale. Humbling indeed. As for me – I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2012 and successfully treated but they have to keep an eye on me. So all was good. I go back in August and if all is still good I have one more set of blood tests next March which if clear will have me signed off and waved happily down the road by the wonderful oncologist I have got here who is just as wonderful as the oncologist I have in London. I am indeed a fortunate person.
Thank you for letting us know. You know what Fiona, I bet your book will save a few lives. It’s so simple, just give them hope.
Wow. Why, how did you get to go/be there? I too hope your Dr appt went well.
My husband is an astrophysicist of global reputation in his field. He was invited and it was appropriate to take some spare baggage so that was me! The appointment went very well. I have another round of tests in August and then one more six months after that – we are fingers crossed that she will then be able to sign me off completely. As I said – I AM pretty fortunate. Thank you for asking – it means a lot to me.
Well, I guess you were the est piece of baggage he could have selected. My hubby always used to make “the Bag” joke about me 🙂
Really glad appt went well, crossing fingers for a complete sign off.
Thank you so much Claudette. I never forget that I am lucky to have that special person who carries the baggage. I send you love and hugs across the oceans 🙂
How amazing. Love your approach to life and always happy to see a post from you 🙂
Thank you Ms Posh! It was pretty amazing and I’m happy to have found a moment to post …. do NOT get me started on trying to renovate a house here …. it makes our endeavours in France look like faire le pique-nique!!!
There’s nothing like a timely reminder of the adversities others face to focus the mind.
That is so true. It is easy for anyone to allow a spiral downwards and deeper into the naval (and I’m not talking about people with diagnosed mental health issues by the way) – seeing Hawking, being in the room with him, really polarised what I have to be glad for.
I know exactly what you mean
Wow, what an opportunity. He is an amazing man, that is for sure. Cheers!
It took me several days to feel remotely normal again …. he is beyond extraordinary – somehow otherworldly and yet the most down-to-earth of fellows.
What a great opportunity! Hope the doctors appt went well. My daughter sounds just like yours.
If we ever meet up in France we can discuss daughters! The doc’s appointment was all clear and I only have one more year of tests before they sign me off for good. Something else to count as good fortune, I think 🙂
Oh yes, that would be great!!!
I had never appreciated exactly how amazing Stephen Hawking is until I was dragged (a little reluctantly) to see The Theory of Everything. Eddie Redmayne did a phenomenal job portraying Hawking. Such a brilliant mind and indomitable spirit to have overcome his physical condition.
I hope the Dr’s appt. went well. I didn’t know.
It’s a historic thing – I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2012. If I carry on with the good results I have had so far, the oncologist will sign me off for good next Spring. I had not seen The Theory of Everything because I’m far too bolshy for my own good and had decided I wouldn’t like it. I have seen it since the meeting in April and was blown away. In future I will sit on my prejudice and be a little more open to suggestion!
Stephen Hawkings has lived an amazing life. Your post is a wonderful salute to him.
Bernadette, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and the trouble to comment. You absolutely right, Hawking has led an incredible life it is very kind of you to say that my little tribute is good enough 🙂
formidable tribute to Stephen Hawking… THE Genius – by definition and by excellence…
* * *
speakin’ of Atacama, a friend of ours from CNES-Toulouse worked there for almost 4 years and looked after ALMA… 🙂
I am very familiar with ALMA …. it’s pretty impressive – your friend had quite the responsibility! Thank you for your kind words about my little salute to the greatest of minds 🙂
I’m glad and relieved to know you are OK. I just met you, and my life is better for it. If Stephen Hawking had read your blog, he would also feel honored to have met you also. If I could meet and talk with him, I would have 2 ” holy grail ” questions to ask him.
1. What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow? 2. How many 5 ounce swallows would it take to carry a 1 lb coconut suspended from strands of creeper held under the dorsal guiding feathers? 😉
I properly hope that we will get to share that glass of something or other in Napoli or Marseilles one of these days (and that’s AFTER I’ve hitched a ride in the cab of your truck to see the world from up their for myself (I won’t squash Vinny please tell him). As far as I am concerned everyone who has touched my life is just as important and special as Professor Hawking. And I will make sure I pass those crucial questions on if I ever get the chance 🙂
I knew you would understand the ministry of sillyness that my questions represent!
You are free and fortunate!!! How amazing is that!! I am so happy for you <3
Free+fortunate=content which seems to be a simple enough formula for life 🙂
YES! It is an exhilarating feeling my friend <3
Weird Guy w/a Dog is right. My life has also become better from meeting you. I’m not trying to bring anyone down, just laying out the facts. Since this Mass Murder in Orlando, it has definitely crossed my mind to voice who is important to me.
Fiona came along and spoke a language that I had not heard in quite awhile. She spoke with kindness. Those words of kindness raised my level of hope. It enabled me to feel whole and pass it forward.
Fiona THANK YOU… 😊
Thank you Jane. That means a lot to me. The events in Orlando have stunned, chilled, revolted but united. If we can scrape the good from the bottom of the stinking barrel we have some hope of eventually attaining something that really equals tolerance, acceptance and decency. Humankindness if you will. I am flattered and humbled that you feel I have made a difference to you and I will endeavour not to let you, or any other living creature down whilst I draw breath.
Your words echo RFK. His spirit lies within me that can never be eliminated.
Wow. Since I was 7 years old I have carried this man in my heart. First because when he was slain my dad was away traveling and the headlines said ‘Kennedy dead’ and my name was Kennedy. Then because I read and read and realised that this man had the spirit that I wanted all great men to have. I have NEVER been so flattered as to be compared to him. I thank you but I just speak from my heart. Stay strong, keep the faith, don’t relent.
You sure have a way with words; makes me want to read more of your work!
I’ll be following you form now on; have an great day! 🙂
p.s. The photo’s amazing too. 🙂
Thank you so much Yousuf – your words are kind and extremely flattering. I will take some time out in the next day or so to explore blog and those of my new followers and I am sure I will be delighted by what I see. Have a fabulous fun and laughter filled day or at least a contented one with no sharp edges to niggle you 🙂
Fingers crossed! 😉
I had to take a day to digest your blog before commenting. All I could focus on was oncologist although you wrote beautifully of your admiration for Stephen Hawking. It is incredible that he is able to achieve so much academically and in life while struggling with such a paralyzing condition. His inner core must be made of steel. I didn’t know about your oncologist appointment or your previous diagnosis of cancer and was relieved reading your answers that you are a survivor. I could not volunteer today after an overwhelming yesterday and will spend the day in bed to recuperate. I will try to think about how lucky I am too, Hugs K
It’s not always easy to find the mechanism that leads to the silver lining and when you have a diagnosed condition it is a different challenge. I don’t need to tell you that, for heavens sake – you live with the roller-coaster of diagnosed mental illness and my heart reaches out to you. For me – I was lucky with the AML … I had an early diagnosis and a SWAT team in London who looked after me. And a sprinkle of fairy dust, probably not forgetting the bluddy mindedness! Hawking is in a league of one. He should not have survived this long. He knows that but what I find humbling is that (publically at least) he has a sense of humour about it all. Rest well, lovely girl and take care of you because you are very very loved out here 🙂 xx
Thank you so much for this virtual hug, much needed today. Kx
You take as many as you need sweet lady X
Thank you for this. I am delighted and relieved that you are so near to being signed off as being well again and fascinated by your words about Stephen Hawking. As I read them it occurred to me that it may be that his mind is so exceptional because his body is not. I try to spend time meditating or ‘going within’. With my body parked I can let my mind roam free and perhaps this is how it is for Stephen. What an amazing and inspirational man and thank you so much for opening another train of thought. Take care of yourself and the Bean. XX
Thank you Tim. He is beyond any words I have but your observation makes total sense to me. I had not considered that angle but it actually seems totally rational and logical. I send warm wishes to you and yours both human and canine from the Boston Bean and I. XX
What an incredible human being he is and you were so lucky to meet him! Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you Jenny …. I have met a good few household names and icons in my time but this gave a whole new dimension to being star-struck. I am very fortunate indeed 🙂
I loved the idea of my friend, Osyth being free of her diagnosis of AML leukemia and hopr her to be considered cancer free!
I am a big fan of movies for helping people to know more about afflictions. Helen Keller, FDR and others who overcame what challenges they faced.
Eddie Redmayne in “Theory of Everything” is amazing and informative of how Stephen Hawking started out with a fairly normal life! Well worth checking out. I am hoping others who wabder through this post may also see it. The true life if a man who wished to have his organs changed to a woman’s is also performed beautifully by Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl.”
Love ya, just been busy with 10 hour work days. . . <3
Eddie Redmayne choses his roles well. He seems to be a man who has a real understanding of the days issues. Hawking is not of this world in some sense … I was awed to silence for many days. My own afflictions paled. Still pale. Of course, selfishly I hope they are gone for good but the fact is that so many live with the most imovreable objects on their backs.
This was so beautiful!
It is July, but I felt compelled to say, I hope that you will be, as your daughters hope you are: an indestructible mum. I hope you know more and will let me know. . .now that time has passed since you came back.
Definitely I would be speechless, sob and be deeply changed from my present self if I were to be blessed and in an auditorium listening to Stephen Hawking. Hugs sent your way, dear Fiona. <3
Thank you! I certainly intend to be indestructible and a nuisance to them for as long as possible. SH is absolutely leveling .. Such a mind, such a will and such humour. I will have blood tests in August and hope I will still be clear. If I’m still clear next Spring they set me free and believe me July 4th will have nothing on the celebrations that will follow. It would be wonderful if I could get my family and my blogging family all together …. A girl can dream 🙂 Hugs returned Lady Lovely xx
I am speechless, Osyth. Cannot believe I’ve followed your blog all this time and knew nothing of the AML. Learned more about both you and Hawking (my daughter’s hero) in this one post than I ever imagined about either of you, all while admiring your response to the photo challenge. Bravo et longue vie à vous deux!
Hey you …. I don’t say much about it . For some this might be defining and I respect that but that isn’t me. Just the way I am. So no disgrace that you didn’t know because I don’t really talk about it. Hawking has no option but to be judged in the body he is in. YOur daughter is right to have him her hero. I hadn’t been smart enough to get that but really. He is. The ultimate hereo. Thank youfor thxe wishes of long life and thank you for taking time to read my drivel for so many years! Long may YOU ride
Well done. Excellent example of the Pure challenge.
Thank you so much @beorganizedwithpamela. I’m beyond flattered
Sh1t! You DO write well……. I am deeply envious.
Its almost as if you are speaking to me, which is always, I assume, the desired effect with a Blogger. Thanks…
THAT is the best compliment! Because of course that is my desired effect 🙂
A perfect statement.
Thank you dear boy 🙂
I’ve nominated you for the quotes challenge.:) Feel free to participate (or not:) ).
Thank you so much … That is very kind of you 🙂
Dear O what an inspiring read at several levels. I am a great admirer of Stephen Hawking and like you find him an incredible human being who makes me feel not only humble but hopeful too. I loved the quote you used.
But you?? Never a word before about your own illness, always positive, upbeat posts, lovely writing. You make me ashamed of my own moaning about aches and pains that seem irrelevant now. I am so pleased that you have/are/will continue to trounce the big C. and I’m grateful to have met you in the blogosphere…perhaps one day in person too. Stay well, keep writing.
I am always awestruck by your witty use of language and ability to reference so many diverse sources.
Of course, I went to school in Boston, and I could revisit the area in my mind.
How wonderful to hear such a brilliant and inspiring person! I am glad your appointment went well.
My father was diagnosed with acute myloblastic leukemia and held his first remission until his passing 22 years later of something else.
I say this to offer hope, as he was truly an inspiring person and a source of hope and strength for so many people who were undergoing treatment. Many blessings for continued good health and strength!🙏
Hi there matey. Wonderful inspiring post – If you wonder where I have been, I am currently at the end of a holiday in Tuscany and was mad busy before I left running between three cats whose owners were away!
I flagged all your posts to read at leisure while away- only to not have the net (there was a problem that was fixed only yesterday – so I am playing even greater ‘catch-up’ the usual.
Much love Lindy xxx
Enjoy your hol …. If I was offended I’d have told you 😂😂😂 xxx
Going to rad one more then stop as I keep losing connection every 10 minutes, so go easy on new posts until I am back in civilization lol x
Reblogged this on Half Baked In Paradise and commented:
I am currently in Bavaria in the company of some of the finest minds I will ever encounter all of whom work in the fields of Astronomy and Astrophysics. It seems ironically fitting as I repost this piece in meager tribute to Stephen Hawking who has passed away over night at the age of 76. In his mind he was free, now perhaps he is really free in whatever firmament he is flying and the world below might feel it is ever poorer for his loss – but to be poorer you must once have been richer and used wisely his legacy not simply of his work but of his continual dogged determination to keep going and to live the fullest of intellectual lives despite being trapped in a broken body, that is surely the glittering example that we can and should all carry forward throughout our own lives – to not be deterred but rather to rise above and continue to expand our minds and our hearts. RIP Professor Hawking – I will never forget you.
This post had my emotions tingling. You live on such a scary edge, of such huge events. I couldn’t even contemplate getting a plane on my own. I am mainly so pleased that your tests are clear. The rest is just too awesome to imagine. Keep on keeping on 🙂
I try always to see the silver lining. The silver lining of my own illness was to put into perspective what really counts and to enforce heartily the notion that seizing the day is vital for we never know what tomorrow will bring, nor even if it will include us as living breathing beings. I fly quite a lot on my own – I used to have a fear of flying and then life changed and if I had continued to give into that fear I would have been seriously compromised in terms of my marriage and indeed in terms of seeing my children …. I still don’t enjoy flying but I actually believe very few people do. Professor Hawking has left a legacy that we can all seize and take to heart if we will. That nothing is impossible. The resistance is purely in the mind ….
Serious illness must have that effect. How could it not? I’m very glad I don’t actually need to fly anywhere. The physical upheaval of any kind of travelling is beyond me, but flying terrifies me too.
I does. I understand your feelings about flying and travel in general perfectly. Circumstances dictate to me but I yearn for the moment, not too far away, when we can settle in one place (plus Marcolès from time to time).
Marcolès must be lovely in the spring. Not sure I’d be so keen at the height of the tourist season. When we lived in Laon we were in a picturesque cobbled lane that led from the cathedral to the Templiers’ chapel and summer was one long stream of guided tours past the window and of German tourists letting themselves into the garden for a look round, or moving the geraniums on the window ledge to peep inside the house.
It is. And for us, it will always be a Maison Secondaire meaning we can avoid being there peak season when indeed there are Spunz galore – we have no garden, just the ground it stands on but we do have shutters and we do have lace curtains!!!!
I bet you need them!
Haven’t read the full post yet….read as far as the name Stephen Hawking. I seldom use the words RIP, now i do, you caught me off guard.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, I am so sorry to have knocked you sideways. I, too, seldom say RIP but I really do wish him that peace.
An amazing story, and such a fitting tribute to an amazing person.
Thank you, Clive. I felt it appropriate to re-share it. I will never forget my great privilege in meeting him.
From what I’ve been told, by a friend whose daughter met him, he was good at making people feel at ease in his presence: the mark of a good man. Cherish those memories! xx
I would agree, and I will 🙂
Beautifully written….thanks for sharing!
Thank you John …. that is very kind 🙂
I did not know about Stephen Hawking’s death. Our news has been focused on much less worthy matters. It was truly astonishing and perhaps magical that he survived to that age with his illness. May he rest in peace and find out a way to send a message back?
Have fun in Bavaria with geniuses! I was working for a team building challenge yesterday and it was a beer tasting test. It was more fun than usual! I once attended a conference in Napa with geological and physicists geniuses. They get less smart the more wine is imbibed…
If anyone can communicate from the other side, it is Professor Hawking 🙂 As to the Boffin conference … the best moment had to be when one sidled up to me on the last morning and asked if I had any tablets – poor fellow looked transparent in the grip of his gueule de bois 😵 he clearly felt that I was the most likely to analyze his predicament …. he was wrong of course 😉
Wow! Just wow! There are so many pieces of information within this post to take in… Firstly as I’ve said a few times, your writing is wonderful, you are so talented. Secondly, your husband is an Astrophysisist?! Globally recognised?! He built his own observatory?! Thirdly, You saw, listened to AND ‘mainly understood’ what he was talking about?! He was such an incredible person & mind, a great loss. Fourthly, (this should be firstly, but I didn’t want to just dive in…) your illness?! What you must have gone through over these years, I’m so pleased & hopeful that you are on the mend, best wishes to you 🌼
Globally recognized in his field which he will tell you is tiny (he absolutely personifies modest and drives me bonkers with his humility when I want to toot the horn and say look what he’s achieved. But I wouldn’t have him any other way. He did build that observatory and also designed and built one in Hawaii. There are various other devices (telescopes) around the world that are attributable to him, the latest is in Greenland. I don’t understand it at all … it’s radio-astronomy so not optical. Anyway, he has taught me enough that I did understand much of what Professor Hawking spoke about. He was just wonderful, I truly will never forget that meeting.
Late this year I will be 7 years a cancer survivor and grateful every day. I have been fortunate, not only to have survived but to have come close to knowing what it might be to be staring at the end of my life. It gives you a different perspective and I aim to make the rest of whatever I have count in whatever way I can.
You are very kind about my writing – in truth it just sort of happens that way 😊
Take good care of you – I’m very glad our paths have crossed
Your husband sounds to be a very clever & good person 😊 as do you. I too am pleased our paths have crossed xx
What a great adventure – meeting Stephen Hawking. And another in surviving cancer and all that means for your view on life. Thanks for another great read.
Thank you Lindy … that is a very kind comment 🙂
Wow, what an incredible opportunity you had to listen to Mr. Hawking when he was still among us! I came to this through your recent repost and I’m thrilled I did. I have been thinking too about how fortunate I am to be alive during an era of great thinkers, courageous doers, and most of all people whose generous spirit lifts us all up.
I was so fortunate and I am delighted that you enjoyed the reminiscence. Being alive in this era is quite the opportunity. Sadly, it can take the death of a brilliant mind to put that into stark relief. LIke you I try not to lose sight of the great wealth of intellect and creativity that this world affords us to live amongst. Many thanks for your comment – as ever, it is thoughtful and extremely welcome.
Simply and purely….. “Wow!”
Your simple statement says it perfectly! My simple response is ‘thank you’
You’re very welcome!
Terry, thank you so much for this honor. I am really really touched that you have chosen to share my post. I’m lost for words actually (so you share something with Professor Hawking!)
Osyth, you are very welcome! I read your post early this morning and with the sorrow mood I was in – this post touched me. It touched me in a very good way – gave me insight, gave me comfort, gave me more hope than I already have – and I have a lot. I appreciate you and your life and your existence – you my friend are an important person to me. We have a connection – you and I. Have a happy day my friend, thank you for helping me start my day off on a good note. 🙂
We do have a connection and I am truly very very thankful for it. The pleasure is all mine 🙂