Dear Mr. Hawking,
First and foremost, I wish to express that I have the utmost respect and admiration for you and your work. I thoroughly enjoyed your book A Brief History of Time when I read it a couple of decades ago.
This morning, while skimming through my Facebook pages, I found a comment you recently made, and I quote: "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
I love a good analogy, Mr. Hawking, and this one sure hits the nail on the head. However, it doesn't tell the whole story, and knowing the whole story might make you, and perhaps some others, a little bit happier. Please allow me to explain.
I agree that there is no such thing as an afterlife, just as there is no such thing as a beforelife. There is, however, a little something called life. Unfortunately, this "life" is considered temporary by most people. Well, Mr. Hawking, that is where the problem, or rather, the misunderstanding, lies. Life is not temporary. In fact, I can assure you that life is not affected by time at all. Life creates time. What is temporary is living your life. That only lasts from birth to death.
I know, I am not making any sense ... let me explain it using your analogy.
We really are a bit like computers, and just like computers, we need some kind of energy to make us function. You can take a perfectly good computer, all the components are in working order, but until you plug it into an electrical outlet or charge the battery, it won't do anything. For all intents and purposes, it's dead. It looks the same as when it was plugged in and running nicely, it even weighs the same, and yet, nothing is happening. The screen is black and nothing moves.
The same goes for human beings. Or any living creature anywhere in this gigantic universe, for that matter.
The power source that is life, nestled deep inside of us every nanosecond that we are alive, is not some kind of fantasy or New Age concept. It is as real as the air that surrounds you. You can't see it, but it's there.
The trouble is that it is so, so very, very subtle. It is so subtle, millions of people can live millions of lives and never even feel it or sense its existence in any way. Interestingly, there are always one or two, or ten thousand, I have no idea, who actually do feel its presence. Isn't that something? Imagine human beings who walk among us, no different from anyone else, whose senses are so finely tuned, or perhaps I should say "trained," they can actually feel -- and please, you must take this literally -- that power. Feel it, see it, hear it, taste it!
I am not kidding you. This is absolutely true. Some of these people are very smart, like you. Others are not smart at all. The power of the mind has nothing to do with this mysterious gift that some human beings have received. Some of them are old, some are young, some are rich, some are poor, some are healthy, some are not so healthy. I have not been able to find a single common denominator among these people, other than that they have been given this fantastic ability.
And fantastic it is! Think about the implications if this is actually true. These fortunate people, without exception, know this power just as intimately as they know the back of their hands. It's always there, always with them.
And if you think that is cool, consider this: there is absolutely no way you can distinguish such a man or woman from anyone else. Nothing! For all you know, the person who just delivered you the morning paper could be one of them. Or you might run into one of those folks, have a chat with him or her, perhaps even a serious discussion about the mystery of life or God, and still you wouldn't know.
While I mentioned that I could not find a single common denominator among these extremely fortunate few, I take that back. The common denominator is that each and every one of them, at some point, surrendered to a tiny little jolt of that power when they felt it. There is that word again, "felt!" See how I never use words that connect or implicate the functioning mind in any way? That's because the mind has no business with this power. Just like the hard drive in your computer has no clue what it is that makes it spin around so fast, so does your mind, sublimely smart and educated as it is, have no clue what is actually making those neurons jump around inside of your head.
So here we are, still plugged in, thank God, to that electrical outlet. One day, Mother Nature will pull that plug. In the mean time, we run around, think up all kinds of neat stuff, have friends and lovers and jobs and so on, all without knowing what it is that allows us to do that. Personally, I think that's a little sad.
What is kind of funny, though, is that all the things I am trying to express here have been expressed a million times already. As they say, there is nothing new under the sun. In a way, this is very useful to those who have that connection, that special gift. It keeps them hidden. All those hip, modern concepts you read about in New Age magazines, all those clever, philosophical books about consciousness and yoga and such, they help to camouflage the fact that life is real -- as in real -- as in knowable! After all, if you wanted to hide a blade of grass, what better place to put it than somewhere among the AstroTurf in the Astrodome?
I don't want to take up too much of your time, Mr. Hawking, let me just say that the one thing that is most important is that if, one day, you feel that tiny little jolt, give it a chance. It could come as a small spark that touches something inside of you in response to something someone said, or a sentence in a book. It can come at any time, from anywhere. And while it doesn't change anything as far as your wealth or your health or your looks or your work, it sure changes the quality of your life. I can guarantee you that!
By the way, the article also mentioned something else you said: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to ... set the Universe going."
Again, well put, Mr. Hawking!
In the meantime, I think I will just take a break and sit in my favorite chair, tell my mind to go take a hike, and let the feeling take me where it always takes me: to a beautiful, peaceful, wonderful place. Right there inside of me, where that "nothing" you mentioned exists, at least until my dying breath. After which that "nothing" will move on. I hope I get to continue riding piggyback. Who knows? Life does what it does, no matter what you and I think. It just goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and ... well, you get my drift.