Rant #12 – Hawking, Hawkeye and Dank Memes.

14th March 2018 is the day we lost Dr.Stephen William Hawking. When I look back at my blog, at the end of this year, every blog post would remind me of the most important things that happened to me, or that I thought of in that particular week and this week has to be about the loss of Hawking.

Honestly, I did not even know his middle name was William until a few days before. All that I know of his personal life was from the movie – ‘Theory of Everything’ and the only work of his that I’ve read is ‘The Universe in a nutshell.’ I’ve been waiting to get to ‘A Brief History of Time’ but could never find the time. But it feels weird nonetheless. He was the wheelchair-bound genius. If he didn’t exist and someone had written a novel about a man who couldn’t move his own toes but demystified black holes from a wheelchair with a computer attached to it, I’m sure many would’ve found it to be non-realistic plot convenience. His existence defied all odds. His intellect would give you a precise number for what those odds were. It felt rather weird, for the lack of a better word, when I read that he’s passed away like I’ve personally lost something. He was quite old when I first heard of him. He’s been around for a while by then. And every time I would read about a new scientific breakthrough, there would be a comment from him as well. “We will one day need to permanently vacate Earth” felt like a whatsapp spam message whereas “Stephen Hawking feels humans need to start leaving Earth by 2600” was a serious article that required my immediate attention. We all liked to wonder about the universe, why we are here and where we’re going, but that’s all we did. We wondered, like a child. It was comforting knowing that a grown-up was in the background working out the answers, and could come up with them any day. But now, the grown-up is out of view and there’s no light ahead. I mean no disrespect to the thousands of other people of science hard at work, but Hawking was akin to a celebrity, he was a public figure. So we are very aware of the loss. He will no longer randomly cameo in episodes of The Big Bang Theory to put Sheldon in his place and I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss feeling that we are somehow on the precipice of scientific breakthrough, a theory of everything just within reach. Even though it was what Albert Einstein had been working on in his final days a century ago as well. The fact that it was Pi Day, and Albert Einstein’s birthday was no compensation at all.

In response to the news of his demise, there were a lot of distraught posts all over the internet as the world collectively wept. But there were also the tweets from religious extremists claiming that Hawking has finally met the God he spent all his life denying and some even went on to say that he’s doomed to suffer in hell for eternity. If there ever was a God, he’s never coming back now. On the other end of the spectrum, there were the ‘dank memes’ which essentially turned his demise into viral memes. It was rather surprising how many existing meme formats this news fit into. I’m not one to complain, I enjoy my jokes dark and twisted and even if they didn’t mean to, humour does help counteract grief quite effectively. In a way it made me realise just how polarised the world has become. On one hand, you have people advocating for gender-neutral pronouns, left-wing feminists furiously finding new things to be offended about, millennials explaining how everything that has ever existed is either sexist, racist or homophobic. This sentence might offend someone for not including many of the other ‘-ists’. One half of the world is becoming an open wound, like an exposed nerve that ‘feels’ everything times seven. As if to restore balance, there is a resurgence of another group that is way too numb and doesn’t feel at all – The Dank group. Making edgy and dark humour that is way past anything conceivable as remotely politically correct is what they do for survival and they had plenty to say about Hawking’s death as well. This happens every time there’s a school shooting, someone famous dies or if at all nothing sensitive happens for too long, they milk the usual jokes about moms or church pastors in brand new meme formats. I am one of those people who doesn’t feel much. A joke is to be taken as a joke, it doesn’t offend me personally and the darker they get, the more uncomfortable it makes my friends, funnier it is for me. But it felt almost cruel to laugh at the ones about Stephen though. Hypocrisy much? Maybe. We are all flawed. 

On an unrelated note, if Hawking hadn’t met his unfortunate end this week, this post would’ve only been about one other thing. It may be absurd to put them in the same post, maybe I will write a much detailed post about it later, but it needs its shout-out and it’s too close to heart, the new Infinity War trailer. The previous trailer and super bowl TV spots were all glimpses, mere fragments of the movie whereas this gives us a definitive structure of what the movie is about. It also has probably the most number of ‘wow’ moments a trailer could have. However, Hawkeye and Antman are still missing and so is even a minor reference to the soul stone. Thanos struggling against Captain America in spite of his gauntlet filled with the power stone left us all in awe. When Batman blocked Superman’s punch in the Batman v Superman trailer, everyone knew Superman must have been hit with kryptonite but Captain holding back Thanos is completely puzzling. This requires its own post. I’ll get working on that.

Fight me.