When David Bowie died, I didn’t give a shit. I cared even less when Prince passed. I just didn’t get it. Why were people writing adulatory posts and tweets, telling their social circles, “I’m crying rn,” and acting like grieving partners for someone who they probably didn’t know personally or hadn’t met.

But then Chris Cornell committed suicide, and suddenly I understood. First there was the shock, he was still fairly young, then the reminiscing, god I loved Soundgarden and Audioslave, then the sadness, I’ll never get to hear him live or see him perform. That his voice constituted a large part of the music I enjoyed during my teenage years made his death even more impactful to me. I spent a day listening to his songs to commiserate. 

So when I see people mourning Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist who just passed away, I kind of get it. Personally he didn’t mean much to me, I’d just seen a movie about his early life and hadn’t read any of his writing or listened to his talks. But to many he was more than just a popular scientist who wrote and spoke about physics; he was their gateway towards the wonders of science and the cosmos; he was the person who sowed that seed of doubt about their faith; and he was an inspiration in more ways than one.

I used to think it was vapid when people mourned the death of a celebrity. These days I’m in a little less hurry to judge.

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