Way back in 1988 I was just thirteen years old, a very impressionable age indeed. On the 1st of March of that year a book was published by a hitherto unknown scientist about cosmology, the study of the universe. The title of the book was A Brief History Of Time: From The Big Bang To Black Holes and the scientist was the British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking. The book became an international bestseller with sales of more than 10 million copies over the next 20 years. It was also on the Sunday Times bestseller list for more than five years, and was translated into 35 languages by 2001.
For those of us old enough to remember, the book was a global sensation. It was easily the most famous book on the planet at the time, it is arguably the most famous science book of all time, and it is also considered to be the most unread book of all time. Even though Hawking was an atheist and I am a Muslim, when I read his book it did kind of blow my mind, even though I may not have understood all of it. It made me realise just how expansive ones thoughts can be, just how vast the mind can open when analysing life, the universe, and everything. If you have not read it them please do so, especially the illustrated edition. You will not think the same again afterwards, or your money back.
Just over 30 years after the publication of his seminal work, on the 14th of March 2018, Hawking passed away. The world lost one of the greatest minds of our age. The death of the theoretical physicist came as a shock to many, especially when judging by the outpouring of tributes from compatriots, politicians, musicians, actors, and others. Hawking was primarily famous for his immense intellect, which he used to delve into the furthest realms of our universe. Despite his immense genius he was humble about it, famously remarking that “People who boast about their IQ are losers.”
At the age of 21 Hawking was diagnosed with a rare early-onset slow-progressing form of motor neurone disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease). ALS went on to gradually paralyse his body over the decades. Even though he was given a few years to live, as do most people with ALS, Hawking somehow managed to live for another 55 years, thus proving that he truly was able to master the elasticity of time. Despite his condition he managed to do more with one finger than most have with their entire body, myself included.
Whilst Hawking was a man of great inspiration to many, he was also famous for his sharp and sometimes savage sense of humour. Most people’s passion, ambition and ability to laugh would crumble in the face of a degenerative disorder such as ALS, but Hawking was not most people. So how do you cope in a situation where, in a sense, you have your hands, feet, and everything else tied behind your back? When asked by the Radio Times what inspires him to keep going Hawking replied, “My work and a sense of humour. It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and at life in general.”
True to his word, throughout his long life Hawking continued to blow our minds with his exploration of the complexity of the universe, all the while making us laugh and reminding us that even the smartest among us are still human. One of his many famous quotes that I have now read several times since his passing is, “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”
Never was a truer word spoken about the comedic nature of our existence. Since his passing this quote has been going around and around in my head, especially when I watch the news. So, as a way to stop it circulating in my mind the way it currently is, and in light of the passing of such a great and humorous intellect, here are some recent quotes from others to hopefully make us all understand that life would indeed be tragic if it were not so darn funny. There are some savage remarks from Frankie Boyle about the current situation in Palestine and Israel, some quotes about the royal wedding, and of course a few about Trump. Please note that some quotes may be for adults only, you have been warned. Enjoy!
A problem I have with the news now is that it is all ridiculous all the time. Have you noticed that April Fools Day has just died as a concept because people go “Is it? Is it any different? I can’t really see the difference.” And I just think that there is a big problem in the modern world, that our evil is now so ridiculous that you can’t take it seriously. Vladimir Putin kills his enemies, he’s extracted a huge amount of wealth from Russia, but he also rides around topless on a horse. It’s very hard to hold those two things in your mind at the same time. – Helen Lewis, May 2018
And then there’s the Royal wedding. To say I am excited…would not be accurate. I already have my alarm set so I’ll know exactly when to start not giving a shit. But on the bright side the Queen finally found a job for Charles. He’ll be walking Megan Markle down the aisle, because who better as a happy marriage good luck charm than Prince Charles. Trump was not invited to the royal wedding. He said that’s okay that he’s not invited. He said in their honor he would continue to royally screw America. So look, I don’t want to be the wet blanket, enjoy the hell out of it tomorrow. Are you gonna watch? Of course you are. It’s gonna be great when a B-list actress marries a man who will never be king in a country that doesn’t even matter, an event so unimportant even the Russians aren’t fixing it. – Bill Maher, 18 May 2018
Earlier today Megan Markle married some unemployed dude who still lives with his grandma. – Micheal Che, 19 May 2018
I think the reason most people are so drawn to the royal wedding is that it’s a reminder that if you’re an unbelievably good looking woman someday you may meet a legacy billionaire full of recessive traits. – tweet from @mattytalks, 19 May 2018
Israel this week shot dead 58 Palestinian protestors and wounded another 2,000 people, in what the British media disgracefully described as ‘clashes’. It’s not clashes. If one side has sniper rifles and the other side has a few catapults and slingshots, you’re basically murdering the Ewoks. – Frankie Boyle, 18 May 2018
It will be hard for Iran to actually attack Israel because they don’t recognise it. I don’t know why they don’t recognise it because it looks exactly like Palestine. – Jeremy Hardy, May 2018
Megan Markel is now the Duchess of Sussex. That’s got to hurt. You grow up wanting to be a princess but you end up sounding like a pub in Eastbourne. It was a traditional wedding. Something old, Prince Phillip. Something new, the royal baby. Something borrowed, the wealth of India. And something blue, the Queen’s feet. – Frankie Boyle, 18 May 2018
Megyn Kelly kicked off America’s royal wedding coverage today by discussing how many people would have to die for Meghan Markle to become queen. And I cannot for the life of me figure out why the rest of the world thinks us Americans are a bunch of weird violent crazy people. – Marie Connor, 19 May 2018
Obama was the first black president. And Donald J Trump is the first porn president. He has pornified not the high street, not the world of fashion, but the whole world itself. What unregulated internet access began, Donald Trump has finished, his porn star affair inadvertently dissolving the last vestiges of modesty displayed by the world of monetised desire. And the phrase “porn star” now sits comfortably in the mouths of Today programme presenters, TV newsreaders, and year 4 schoolkids. – Stewart Lee, 14 May 2018
President Trump announced that he would be withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the Iran deal, but Trump is! And you know the only part of that deal Trump has read was the signature on the bottom that said ‘Barack Obama.’ That’s all he needed. Trump is undoing so much of Obama’s work that Obama’s going to start fading away in pictures like in the movie Back To The Future. – Michael Che, May 2018
Royal shows are an escapist distraction for a fractious nation, but when the confetti is swept away and the bunting taken down, Britain is still left to wrestle with its deep divisions. Another concern is that Britain’s monarchy is all that much of the world ever notices about our country and this entrenches an international image of these islands as a heritage park. – Andrew Rawnsley, 20 May 2018
The death toll rose from the protests in Gaza. Over 100 people have been shot dead and thousands more have been shot and wounded. But to be fair there were injuries on both sides. One of the Israeli snipers got an erection for so long that his foot went to sleep. Things are bad in Gaza. Things are so bad in Gaza that porn stars have started referring to their pubic arrangement as a ‘Gaza strip’, an area that has been so brutally pummeled that no child could ever hope to crawl out alive. So why is it important to talk about this? It is important to talk about this in Britain because Britain still provides moral and practical support to Israel while Israel breaks international law. And I don’t think British people would be okay with that if they knew the full facts of the case, if they knew the full extent of Britain’s hypocrisy on the world stage. Britain sells weapons to Saudi Arabia that Saudi Arabia uses to kill people in Yemen. Yet Britain is the number two provider of aid to Yemen. And why not? Life gives you Yemen, you give Yemen aid. – Frankie Boyle, 25 May 2018
Trump has broken synapses thrashing around in his brain, like electricity cables that have been gnawed through by a gopher with nothing to live for. – Miles Jupp, May 2018
Trump is obsessed with undoing everything Obama did. If Trump could bring Bin Laden back to life he would do it. – Bill Maher, May 2018
Trump will not be assassinated. It would be very difficult. He’s not smart enough to go to the theater, and also Democrats would never assassinate him because then they’ll have to admit that guns can be useful. – Katherine Ryan, May 2018
We are told that Prince William is to visit Israel and the West Bank. He’s not the first member of the royal family to go over there, but he is the first one who isn’t leading a crusade…It’s Israel’s 70th anniversary, so William will be greeted with a 70 gun salute, fired straight into some Palestinians. – Frankie Boyle, 01 Jun 2018
When your map of the world is systematically leading you astray, step one for finding your way is to throw away the map. – Oliver Burkeman