He has been inspiration-incarnate as he survived a condition that may seem spine-breaking to many. “However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at”, he said. And he indeed just didn’t survive it; he succeeded. During the course of his ailment of a rare motor neuron disease, he did what even a healthy man of his age couldn’t – his contribution to the field of physics, theoretical cosmology, gravitational theorems, general relativity, black holes and Hawking radiation, speak volume about his percipience.
Now, what made the ailing man a genius of mind and a ‘cult figure’? Was it his willpower or his physical affliction that strengthened his mind? He was diagnosed with a crippling disease at the age of 21 but in the respect of his genius, fortune favoured him since then. His scientific work got thicker and better and he quickly set a succession of scientific insights on his theory of black holes. The man, whose body was so frail and seemed to fail his genius, did not give up. It will not be wrong to say that technology saved him. In fact, this was only the beginning to what led him to become the greatest scientist of the age.
Some experts say that perhaps Hawking was wrongly diagnosed and this is the reason of his surviving over half a century. Also, doctors say that in case of Hawking, the disease spread slower than it does in most of the patients, giving him way more time than the others. Hawking himself said, “I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.”
Was it the power of the mind?
There has been much research in trying to quantify and understand the power a strong willpower has on one’s physical abilities. The closest we have come to medically understanding this is through the fight-or-flight responses. These are associated to a person’s reaction in times of stress and pressure and choosing either to flight or to flight. Also, such situations are associated to the release of adrenaline, that gushes out from the adrenal glands.
Gordon Lynch, a physiologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia, has spoken about the subject and said, “It is possible that during situations of extreme stress and danger, that the adrenaline rush enables us to unlock a muscle’s true potential that might otherwise not be achieved voluntarily.” Adrenaline has the power to stimulate blood flow to working muscles and this enhances our capacity to speed and enhance metabolism. Also, adrenaline has the power to diminish fear and make us throw caution away to the wind.
Can our mind heal our body?
There have been many studies that prove the placebo effect to be real. In fact, there are also many documented cases of spontaneous remission that prove the importance of mind in healing the body. The Institute of Noetic Sciences compiled the database of spontaneous remission cases. It had the case studies of over 3500 people who got better from seemingly incurable illnesses, such as stage 4 cancer, HIV positive and lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, thyroid. Lisa Rankin, MD, spoke about the subject in her TED talks and said, “…the body holds within it the innate self repair mechanism… I believe our healthcare system is badly broken and it is largely because we have lost respect for the body’s ability to heal itself… We find it repelling to think that nature could be better than we are sometimes.”
Hawking was way more than just a nerdish and unworldly scientist. He was a personality who seemed unaffected by the handicaps life threw at him. He, in fact, was also a campaigner for the disabled. He calls all his accomplishments that followed the handing over of his death sentence to him a bonus. He indeed is a unique example of two mind powers combined – an astonishing willpower and a strong sense of determination. These two helped him fight against all odds.