Thinking of Stephen Hawking, Making Apple Pie, & the Range of the Human Mind

Thinking of Stephen Hawking, Making Apple Pie, & the Range of the Human Mind March 14, 2018

In the midst of all the tumult of life I find myself pausing just for a moment to recall the life and work of Stephen Hawking who died today, the 14th of March, 2018. Against all odds he lived to be seventy-eight. Professor Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, was by all accounts one of the greatest minds since Albert Einstein.

On the one hand I spend a fair amount of time considering the limitations of the human mind. In spiritual circles sort of associated with mine, there is a lot of confusion where people think their minds and the cosmos are identical. And, a host of silly assumptions about health and wealth that follow.

Once when I was at a point in my Zen training and was on a roll and just answering koans questions with the alacrity of a knife cutting through warm butter, my teacher leaned in to me and said, “James. Don’t forget, even enlightenment is just an idea.” On the other hand. On another meditation retreat, deep into the great matter, the same teacher leaned into me and said, “words are it, too…”

This. That.

Not this. Not that.

Carl Sagan once said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” It’s all connected. All of it. Every bit. And there are many ways we see into this. (Not least noticing the delicious coincidence that this is Pi Day…)

Curiosity and not knowing.

And one of the greats in the science part of that way of curiosity and not knowing, in figuring out how to make an apple pie, well, we just lost him.

In a sense. Of course, in another, we haven’t. If it’s all connected, Stephen and that apple pie, and you, and me. Well, we cannot be untangled within the web of intimacy.

Mystery piled upon mystery.

I think of the many facets of the great mystery and our full on encounter. And at the heart of it this strange thing that occupies our human skulls. And the thing that emerges out of that roughly three pounds of meat. Sorrow. Joy. Terrors. Blessings. Mystery. Piled upon mystery.

And, among those who used the powers of the human mind to reach out to explore the very structures of our universe, and to return and share what was found with us, well, what better example than that man in his wheelchair?

A bow to Stephen Hawking and the powers of the human mind.

And endless bows to the mysteries of our existence.

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