Sunday, June 11, 2023


A Crumbling Carapace That We Choose to Nest Within a Friendlier One

My toys.  Both my boat and my truck are a shiny bright blue, very pleasing to the eye.  I use them to fool Mother Nature if only for a fleeting spell.

Imagine, if you will, that in the last decade of his life Stephen Hawking had both the means and the motive to purchase and pilot a vintage Mustang fighter plane, a P-51D to be precise, the kind that used to race once a year at Reno NV before the tragic accident about which you no doubt have heard.  

On clear days, the sun would have glinted on his wings and his undercarriage as he made the "by the book" steep turn from base leg to final, taking care to stay at least 10 mph over the placard "dirty" stall speed of the airplane, which was 93 mph.  

But even on days of low overcast, when little vortices of condensation would have chased his wingtips as he dropped out of the cloud cover and prepared for the same steep turn, he would have, via the airplane, projected power, grace and panache, specifically in defiance of his actual physical grotesquerie.  Casual witnesses on the flightline, not even knowing who he was, would have sometimes applauded when he shut Lucky Lainey down and the big prop came to a silent stop.

He would have had a special fibreboard screen made, such that only a couple of his minions actually would have seen how he had to be extracted from the plane through its retracted canopy. In a joke that he would have constructed against himself, they would have carried him off, curled up in a ball and secreted in a fleece-lined but otherwise classically simple burlap sack.  He would have giggled at the humiliation, at the yin and the yang of his lofty but equally accursed life.

In his case not mine, there was a feature film that depicted him as a handsome and vigorous young man, as indeed he was before he got sick.  It made a bit of a splash, but very few remember it, fewer and fewer with each passing year.  And yet, according to Christian cosmology, it is in this form that Stephen will rise from the dead, from his own eponymous "black hole," on the Last Day, the Day of Judgment, the dies irae.

Will that monumental intellect, which in its hubris and in best-seller print promised to reveal to us the Mind of God not via revelation in the biblical sense but via mere science, get lost in the multitude on that day of wrath, for want of nothing more than a horrible but more-familiar-to-us carapace?

Only time will tell.

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