The Theory of Everything
The story of Stephen Hawking is a
compelling one, and this film does a very credible job of developing it.
Of particular interest is the way they depict the
early days of Hawking’s Cambridge career, when he was just another
student---a promising one, sure, but somewhat intermittent in fulfilling his
homework obligations (depending on whether it challenged/interested him).
He spends most of his time with his fellow
science majors, drinking in the pub, talking, and yes, occasionally going to
is where he met Jane (Felicity Jones), the “helpmate” who changed his
Because right about the time Mr.
Hawking was beginning to dazzle his professors with his creative academic work
and startling outside-the-box thinking, he began to develop these debilitating
physical symptoms. When
the diagnosis was confirmed, it was worse than everyone feared:
he’d contracted ALS.
Otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease (though
few of Hawking’s
friends knew anything about Lou Gehrig).
There’s no known cure.
The body just keeps shutting down more and more:
first the major motor movements, like walking,
and then the minor ones, like typing, until eventually even breathing and
swallowing become difficult.
At first, Hawking (played with
great skill by Eddie Redmayne) just sits in his dorm room and pouts, feeling
sorry for himself, especially after his physician decreed that he had less
than two years to live. He
figured, “What’s the point of trying anymore?”
But the stalwart Jane just
wasn’t going to give up on him.
Or let him give up on himself.
She not only wills him to keep fighting, but
marries him immediately and then instantly becomes his caregiver, as he is
increasingly unable to fend for himself.
And despite his body shutting down on him,
Hawking still manages to secure his Ph.D. in physics and mathematics, with his
dramatic, revolutionary theories about black holes in the universe.
What’s interesting from a
religious perspective is how at first, in Hawking’s view of the cosmos,
there was no room for God.
And then later, when he was convinced that
something---or Someone---had to give the whole inert matter an initial push,
Hawking seemed to allow for the idea of a divine Creator.
But then later, when he decided that the universe
is infinite, and without beginning or end, then he then decreed that there was
no longer any place for God in the cosmos, or at least as the Divine Being was
And perhaps the exclusively scientific
mathematicians and theoreticians like Mr. Hawking have a hard time
comprehending the simple faith conviction that their own intelligence is
itself a gift from God.
The odd thing about watching the
touching dynamism between Stephen and Jane is that eventually, the fiercely
co-dependent relationship isn’t enough for either one of them.
Jane, needing help, enlists the aid of the choir
director in her Anglican church, who’s young, good-looking, and recently
widowed, and despite how smart she is purported to be in her own right (Ph.D.
in linguistic studies, specializing in medieval Spanish poets), she isn’t
smart enough to figure out that this new emotional intimacy might morph into
the old familiar love triangle.
And even after the predictable happens, she still
isn’t able to figure out that the next person she hires to help, an
attractive woman who obviously fawns over Jane’s now-celebrity husband,
could also steal his affection despite his relative inability to demonstrate
it (or perhaps even because of it). And so we have this odd dynamic of Jane
being a significant driving force in Stephen’s life, but eventually leaving
him, anyway, and still, at the end, they assure us that everyone involved is
living happily after. Hmm.
I wonder if they asked the three kids?
Yes, there is no doubt that Mr.
Hawking is genetically brilliant, and has a beautiful mind, despite his
unfortunately ravaged body.
And that in itself is inspirational, even if he
does presume to know everything.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,