I have been thinking about gravity a lot recently. Not in the way that a scientist would think about such a thing – just as an ordinary person who is affected by this phenomenon. I remember when I first heard about gravity. I was a very little girl who asked a lot of questions every day to whomever happened to be in listening range. Some of my questions regular folks don’t have an answer to right off the top of their heads. Well, at least they didn’t back in the 1950’s. Now there’s Google. Things like: why is the sky blue? And then other stuff that nobody has an answer to – not even Google – like: if God made everything, then who made God? At any rate, I’d asked my daddy if the earth was spinning around how come we didn’t fly off. He explained that we were held to the earth by gravity. Gravity??? Where is it? What does it look like? Hmmm. Well, it’s invisible. No one can see it. It’s an invisible force that keeps us on the earth…….. And such conversations are why my parents practically jerked the encyclopedia salesman inside they day he showed up.
Anyhow, in my little six-year-old mind I constructed a visual of GRAVITY. It was a huge monster that lurked in the darkness with an infinite number of tentacles for sucking people’s feet to the floor of the earth. Gravity looked like something between an octopus and a spider and was scary as hell, folks! I could practically see him hiding under my bed or floating around in a shadowy corner. And when I finally confessed that I was scared to sleep in my room because I was scared of Gravity my exasperated parents tried mightily to relieve my fears but let’s just say that my imagination was way stronger than any argument they presented. I remained wary of Gravity for a pretty long while but finally let go of that monster only to replace it with something else. Probably Captain Hook who hid out under my bed for many years. Eventually I learned that if I took a running leap from the hallway I could jump into my bed and avoid his wicked hook. Of course, it was important to sleep in the smack middle of the bed because he just might be able to reach out from under the bed and up either side – which is why I talked Mama into letting me push one side of my bed up to the wall. That way I only had to worry about the dreadful hook coming from one side.
When I was older we learned about gravity in school. It turns out that there are other people who think about stuff like gravity way more than I do. Sir Isaac Newton for one! He came up with the Law of Gravity which states: “Any particle of matter in the universe attracts any other with a force varying directly as the produce of the masses and inversely as the square of the distance between them.” (Good grief!) And in case you’ve forgotten (or your eyes were glazed over like mine) this dude actually came up with three laws:
- An object will not change its motion unless a force acts on it.
- The force on an object is equal to its mass times it acceleration.
- When two objects interact, they apply forces to each other of equal magnitude and opposite direction.
Well, I don’t know about you but I’d like to lodge a complaint. Who put Sir Isaac in charge of making laws? Is there any possibility we could have them taken off the books? Sigh.
Well, folks kept thinking about gravity and its laws for centuries and developing theories and finding out how things work in the Universe – although some of the stuff they figured out makes my eyes roll around in their sockets. No offense to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which he proposed in 1915, by the way, so there’s been a few years to let that soak in. But even with my eyes rolling around and glazed over I liked knowing that Mr. Einstein did not describe gravity as a force but rather as a curvature of spacetime which I do not understand in the least but I know it has something to do with black holes which I find overwhelming to think about because how in the world can a black hole completely swallow light? Black holes go into my category of Mysterious and I am completely fine to let them remain there without any sort of answer. I like a good mystery especially when they have no explanation because solving them just makes them burst like soap bubbles. Once they pop they’re gone and so is their delight.
Anywho, in case I lost you as I meandered through my thin bit of semi-physics knowledge, simply put: gravity is an invisible phenomenon that pulls objects toward each other and the closer objects are to each other, the stronger their gravitational pull is. Earth’s gravity comes from all its mass and all its mass makes a combined gravitational pull on all the mass in your body. And in the case of my body, that is considerable. Gravity is what pulls our body towards the center of the earth and plays a subtle but dastardly role in sagging skin. Antonyms for the word gravity include words like pressure, weight, and heaviness. Ugh.
Gravity is the word people use when they want to show you don’t know beans. They say, “She hasn’t grasped the gravity of the situation.” Whoever she is is being judged as frivolous. But let me tell you that NOT grasping the gravity of a situation usually means you are in a realm a lot more pleasant than the current situation. And letting go might serve you much better than hanging on.
Like I said, I’ve been thinking about gravity lately – how it pulls us down, contributes to wrinkled, saggy skin, how we associate it with dignified behavior when a bit of levity might be in our best interest. As it turns out, gravity may indeed be a misunderstood monster after all.