coyote-06I’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.

16 thoughts on “Gravity

  1. Dear Dave and Sherri,

    You write so well of the truth we all must learn and accept. We hit the ground. Then what? Stand up again? Or cry into the earth, wanting to change the painful facts. The Lord does not cause bad things to happen, but when we are open to Him, He does bring peace and happiness again into our lives, wherever we are. Love to all of you, U. Bob and A. Joan

  2. With heartfelt compassion, humble respect, and much love for you all, I wish you peace of mind and spirit as this journey unfolds.

  3. I am so grateful to have been able to spend a little time with Sherri when she came to Boston for a visit.
    My prayers are with my beautiful friend and her lovely family. I think of you every day.
    Your words are exquisite.
    Love to you Sherri and your beautiful and strong family.

  4. Sherri, Dave, Zia and Anji,

    Dave writes so beautifully about life and its meanings. His writings remind me so much of how Sherri enlightened me to be spiritual back in high school, a gift from her to me that I will be eternally grateful for. It is a quality she has had as long as I have known her, which is since 1963 when she and I were in the 2nd grade at Eggert Road Elementary. All through school, we almost always sat next to each other because of our last names. Eventually, this would lead to her profoundly affecting my life. She has profoundly affected the lives of so many in so many positive ways. Sherri is the epitome of Swedenborg’s reference to the Sun.
    Sending love to you all.

  5. All you Coopers, one and all, are in my heart and mind every day. I wish this transition could be easier for all of us, those in the midst, and those of us who stand at the side and watch and wish we could help. It is not an easy transition because it is profound and transcends everything we know. Your perspective, Dave, is humbling. To see the bigger picture when the immediate picture is so … immediate. God bless you all, each and every day. And especiallty, God bless Sherri as she inspires us all. xoxox

  6. Dave, this is a beautiful piece, beautifully written and with some incredible insights. Thank you for putting it out there.

    Now we hear of your loss and can only send heartfelt condolences and very best wishes. May the Lord be with you and steady your hand.

  7. So much love to you and the girls. I admit I didn’t know Sherri well but I have always felt her presence as a warm, peaceful, glowing light. May you feel it shining on you whenever you need it most.

  8. Sherri, you have been in our prayers every day since we learned of your fight with pancreatic cancer. You have been an incredible fighter and an inspiration to us in many ways – the scientist through and through, be it ecology or cancer trials. As someone else affected by pancreatic cancer being in my family, thank you for your contribution in bringing us closer to a cure. I know that is the more difficult road to take when faced with your disease but such a meaningful gift to those who follow. Our prayers continue for you, Dave, and the girls. Dave – your devoted writings have been an example of your deep love for Sherri, your family, and friends. Thank you. You can’t know how much it is appreciated. With much love, Denise & Jack

  9. Dave, i don’t know what made me look at your blog today. I hadn’t looked at it for a month or so due to travel, life. Got home day before yesterday and was thinking of Sherri tonight and saw you wrote that she was in Hospice and wrote the above post. An hour and a half later I looked at FaceBook and saw the sad news. Jack and I are deeply saddened and feel so for you and the girls. You all are in our prayers as you have been for so long. With love and sympathy, Denise

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