I’ve been thinking about gravity. Not just the gravity of the situation, but the force of gravity.
One might consider gravity to be a “fair” law, because it acts equally and predictably. You might be able to overcome gravity with ingenuity or animation, but you can’t truly defy it. Each time Wile E. Coyote experiences another epic fail, gravity certainly has a hand in the result, but he can’t blame gravity for the injury.
Mr. Coyote seems to be able to survive any calamity so he probably wouldn’t spend much time contemplating transcendental matters, but we humans have an ongoing debate across time and culture. Why are we here, how did we materialize in such a functional order, and what happens next? We could say that God put us here, God made us in his image, and we go back to God. But as a species, we can’t seem to agree on what or who we mean by God. In his theological writings, Swedenborg offers this interesting perspective: The Lord appears in the spiritual world as a sun, emanating love as warmth and wisdom as light, which actively creates and sustains life. This is easy to visualize; after all, our natural Sun provides warmth and light, and actively sustains life.
So where does gravity fit in? For one thing, the gravity of our Sun keeps us in an orderly rotation, so we don’t fly off into outer space. Maybe spiritual gravity is the law that keeps our lives in an orderly rotation around love, wisdom, and action. As we speed through life, our love, careful consideration, and positive actions keep us from becoming space cadets.
It’s hard to explain what love is, but we know is what it does, how it makes us feel, its effect. We fall in love with people, get all passionate about things we love to do, and expound on the merits and pitfalls of love in every movie, song, and piece of artwork ever created. Love draws everything to it like the gravity of the Sun. Love is clearly an “attractive” force. People are formed in the image of love. It is, quite literally, our reason for being and it is what makes us human in both form and function.
Yet, love does not predestine the path our lives will take. Love, like gravity, regulates our orbit, keeping us in a place of equilibrium where we can make good choices. We endure diseases, afflictions, injustices, and misfortunes, but they are not designed for us. They are never deserved. We fall, but we can’t blame gravity, love, or God for the injury.
Sherri left a position at Duke in 1999 to teach biology at Bryn Athyn College because this institution encourages the inclusion of moral and spiritual values in the classroom. She is tuned in to a higher channel, and I believe this has benefited her students over the years, and sustained her while she has battled first breast cancer starting in 2009 and then pancreatic cancer since 2013. Her love of scientific inquiry, her belief in the eternal spirit in each of us, and her perception of how these fit together have enabled her to find courage, to support her family and her friendships, to teach and inspire.
Last week we decided to enter a hospice program. This is the next phase in Sherri’s journey and ours, and it changes the focus from the tumors and the science to peace for the spirit within her. The battle has taken a toll, and her natural body can no longer tolerate medical attempts to cure, though the efforts have been well-founded and promising. She hopes the clinical trials have helped advance us toward a solution. We hope to keep her comfortable, able to participate in life, and at home.
As we fall, we don’t blame gravity, but we know it will still hurt when we hit the ground.