The Dull Insistence of Gravity
A tremor in your soul,
To resist the dull existence of gravity.”
On this, the completion of my 42nd circumnavigation of the sun, on this little satellite we call home, spinning through the seemingly infinite darkness of space, it gives me reason to pause and remember that we are only held in place by the gravity of the earth and the sun. Tied to the dirt, the only home I will ever know, gravity holds with its stubborn grip, like a magnet to iron filings, or an invisible glue that stretches but always pulls back.
Looking up at the night skies, though my vision is somewhat obscured by the millions of microscopic particles of water, dust and smoke, I could be looking in the direction of another civilization deep off in the blackness, though any light from their planet would take millions of years to reach my eyes, if at all. Are there creatures out there looking back at me?
When you were bound to the Earth
A release from the humid press of days.”
Forty two years ago I was born, and insignificant single child brought alive and screaming into the world, the precious gift of life that has been supplied to me by science apparently beginning on that day. Held in my mother’s arms, a bloody mess, confused by the lights and sounds and smells, every single sensation alien to my infant body, into this world I was thrown. I imagine, cradled in my mother’s arms, the relief and happiness of my parents and the clinical whiteness mixed with 1970’s decor of the delivery room. The beginning of my journey, learning, growing, all the time bound to the earth like a mite on a bee’s back. Another mouth to feed, and another burden on the planet’s resources.
I wonder how you make it through each day
And, after all, time barely crawls
Unoccupied, between each breath it sticks”
Every person on this planet must struggle, must engage with and fight the dull insistence of gravity. It holds us down, and at the same time holds us on this planet. It stops us from standing, but also stops us from floating away. It’s the grounding force of our lives, and the one thing we can depend upon day after day after day, pulling us from deep within the planet earth, a gigantic and searingly hot ball of iron which spins inside a sea of molten rock. Watching the birds as they effortlessly take to the skies, fluttering wings and flapping feathers, soaring high above the trees and alighting on a convenient lamppost, momentarily freed from the pull of this rock we live on. The birdsongs are laughter at our earthbound and self-referential misery.
An early chat with death
To pull your body for a moment from your soul”
Yearning to go above, yearning to be up there, in the skies, with the clouds whistling past your ears, the air getting thinner, the temperature dropping. Imagine the tiny spider, caught one day in a particularly strong updraft of air while busily constructing a web, blown up and up into the skies like a dandelion seed, upward and onward. To places unknown.
The pioneers of flight, the brave people who have launched themselves upward, past the relentless pull of the ground, upward into the unknown, these are the people who have given us a glimpse into the deep dark universe. Imagine standing on the surface of the moon, looking UPWARD at the earth as the tiny blue rock spins, as billions of people live and carry out their days, living, loving, fighting, working, killing, unknowingly as far above a man plants a flag into the dust and proclaims ownership over our smaller sister and our only companion in this journey. Imagine the first person to stand on the surface of Mars, with our own home planet so small as to become just another dot of light in the night sky. Imagine Voyager II as she leaves our solar system, after decades of snapping off images and sending them back to us, like postcards from the future, saying “You wish you were here”. Imagine being freed from the confines of this galaxy, far enough away that the galaxy itself congeals into a single visible body, no longer a prisoner inside her massive form.
What does it mean to fly? The escaping of gravity, if only for a moment, your stomach dropping into your abdomen as the force of the craft you are in fights against, and conquers the pull of the planet. The ground drops away and falls. Roads become veins, the circulatory system of our societies, the mountains are mere bumps, trees meld together into a single mass of green. People disappear, houses are blocks of colour, like a pointillist painting, the dots join to become a different picture, a blurring of lines and a reminder of the scale of things. We are but an embodiment of a universe that can see itself, and ask, “What now?”
Lyrics from the song “The Humid Press of Days”, by Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie 1989.