Does Gravity Have Weight? Or when will insanity stop?

My six-year-old grandson knows the important questions:

“Gramma Trisha, does gravity have weight?”

Me: “I’m not sure. Why don’t we look it up?”

“And if light has weight.”

Me: “Right, un-huh, that too.”

Well, I couldn’t decipher all of the Google entries and complex formulas re gravity having weight, but the consensus seems to be that gravity does not have weight. So that is what I told Ben with the caveat that we might find out in the future that it does have weight.

Also light does not have weight, except – oh, yeah, those photons when light is being particle and not wave – the ultimate morphing job. So it gets wobbly, but I told Ben that most people believe light does not have weight but maybe in the future we would find out that it does. I give the future free reign to surprise us all, hopefully for the good.

It’s not that I think that public opinion about gravity or light having weight is going to fluctuate like opinions about eating gluten or the efficacy of melatonin. It’s that I believe scientific inquiry will continue to advance in corners of civilization shielded from Creationism, Fundamentalism, war, violence, and other social ills. Little clusters of scientists – and other rational people open to change as new evidence comes in – will continue to explore all the aspects of being alive on our planet. The DNA thread with courage, the one that urges us to learn the truth based on repeatable evidence, will prevail through hard times.

Hard times such as when great factions of people are trying to set back the clock on women’s rights, deny climate change, violate the principles of separation of religion and state, carry assault weapons – omg! – into market places, help the rich get richer without caring for the poor, divert funds away from health care and education, and destroy Mother Earth on the assumption that she will just keep on giving to her spoiled children.

Ben reminded me of the important things: we will not fling out into the cosmos whether gravity has weight or not, and the sun will come up tomorrow whether light has weight or not. We have what we need to make love, give joy, and provide health and safety and justice for others on this planet.

Abrupt change right here:

I am in grieving about what is happening in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. I know that I am grieving more profoundly because I have friends there. It is personal.

The deaths in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and the Ukraine are larger, perhaps more horrendous, though Israel is announcing – perhaps has already begun – massive bombing attacks on Gaza and is talking about land forces.

[A moment ago, as I was doing a final check on this blog, reports came in that bombs have reached Jerusalem, missiles seemingly from Gaza. How horrendous this is going to become is beyond my desire to imagine or ability to face at this moment. It is not impossible that Gaza will be decimated. The below continues more or less as originally written.]

These attacks escalated from the actions of two hate-filled violent Palestinians that Hamas seems genuinely not to have known or to have been able to control. We now know that the Israeli authorities knew within hours that the three settler youth were most assuredly dead. They had the phone tape that included the gun shots and the songs of the monsters who killed them, celebrating their deaths. For a week they didn’t tell anyone, including the parents, while they (re)arrested more than 500 Palestinians, demolished homes, and managed in the process to kill at least 10 Palestinians. Gangs of Israelis – mostly young men by the videos I saw – took to the street chanting “Death to Arabs.”

This is the open warfare that I know the most about. It is more manageable and personal to me than Syria, Iraq, Egypt, the Ukraine. I know the territory and can wrap my head around this catastrophe. It just happens to be that way. I have no excuses, just lack of knowledge of the other horrors.

At the same time the US Stock Exchange is reaching new highs. Is this because we feel separated and insular from the fight, therefore safe? We are the island of stability? Or are we grateful that for once we aren’t sending troops anywhere? Let them all kill each other while we will eat cake? Or are investors just oblivious? [Later note: let’s see how the Exchange reacts to today’s suicidal insanity.]

I sold my stock in Caterpillar Inc. a month ago, before the Presbyterian Church divested from its stock holdings in companies like Caterpillar Inc that contribute to Israel’s containment and occupation of Palestinians. I can’t hold stock in a company that helps build nine-meter high concrete walls to hold a nation in and provides bulldozers to level people’s homes.

I don’t think Caterpillar Inc. noticed my sale, though I did send them a note about it. I also told them I would add the sale to my blog. Hence, here it is.

Returning to the light:

Maybe gravity and light have weight yet to be measured. Maybe they don’t.

But death and violence and racism and prejudice and hate do have weight. People fall when they die, when they are battered. So do morals of a culture, so do hopes and aspirations, so do opportunities, so do fragile psyches, so do the minds of children when they lose their parents. (I remember in Afghanistan. You could look into children’s eyes and see immediately who would rise and laugh again and who would be broken for the rest of their lives.)

Light may have weight, or it may not. But it can cleanse and heal and return us to sanity and give us hope and help us to forgive, and that is something of such value that it must have substance.

Whether that substance relates to something in our oh so real physical bodies and brains, or if it is the vapor of an elixir that comes from some great elsewhere doesn’t matter. I believe we can call light into our beings, and into our lives – and we must now. Now.

Each one of us for all of us. Because that’s how light works. It is not exclusive.

If you don’t share light and healing, it will leave you to the dark, which gives you and me only one viable option as I don’t think you like dark and injury anymore than I do.


Beyond Catfish: holding it together

[This blog, like some other recent ones, should probably be put in the category of “insomnia musings” except I don’t want to give the insomnia that credence in the hopes it will crawl back into its agitated corner.]

On the cusp of turning six years old my grandson asked me what holds atoms, as in one single atom, together. “Why don’t the electrons, protons, and neutrons all fly away? Is it gravity? Or, . . . or maybe magnetism?”

I muttered something about the weak force or the strong strong.

Ben: “Yes, but is the force gravity or magnetism?”

Me: No, it’s different.

A couple minutes later, Ben: “Okay. Well, what holds atoms together, like atoms that are alike? Like why doesn’t that truck fly apart?” (We were at a stop light next to a furniture delivery truck. Many of our best conversations are in the car.)

Ben was not asking about nuts, bolts, and axles. He was asking how are we held together “. . . or a leaf, or a tree, or a house. Why don’t they all fly apart?” I have often asked myself the same question. I contend that the difference between humans and other species is that we are aware that only something unexplainable stands between us and oblivion.

By the time he was eight, my older brother would fish, sometimes with me, in the teeny creek through the north meadow where the cows pastured. Catfish. Ugly critters that ruined my taste for fish for decades.

Fishing is a silent endeavor, even putting the live earthworms on the hooks. He taught me how to do this, the curve and threading of it, and I tried not to show how squeamish I was. The memory of wet fat “night crawlers” with the grit of dirt on them is sealed into my sight and touch.

He had a red and white plastic bobbin that fulfilled its job description by bobbing in the muddy water until a fish on a hook pulled it under. Mainly you stared at the bobbin and kept your silence.

photo 2Les took me fishing again when I was in my mid-50s. We took his boat out on the Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines and used radar to sight the fish deep below. I don’t remember what kind of fish we caught that day, but they were larger and prettier by far than the fingerlings of our childhood.

My brother, who died too young, attended church, but he also believed in the religion of fishing during the summer and the winter. He and my sister-in-law took early retirement from teaching and moved to a small town in Minnesota where their home was a couple blocks up from the Mississippi River. He was a serious ice fisherman.

We try to hold ourselves together through systems of belief: morals, ethics, religion, cultural rituals.

We try to hold ourselves together through personal identity: conservative, liberal, entrepreneur, nerd, millennial, elder, sports fanatic, freedom fighter, intellectual, poor, rich, traveler, professional, artist, parent, lover, teacher, fisherman, blogger.

We try to hold ourselves together through rules: legal codes, constitutions, oaths, grammar, proper attire, contracts, marriages, manners.

That is, we try to moor ourselves to tangible things – and self-concepts – so we don’t fly apart. We try to hold ourselves together by saying we are our particulars: we are musicians rather than music, we are poets rather than poetry, we are eyes rather than sight, we are fishermen rather than the taste of fish.

It doesn’t work, and it is not accurate because we are the music and the poetry and the seen and seeing, the fisherman and the taste of fish. The experience of music and poetry and sight and taste do not exist without us – and they are nothing but experience.

There can be no words for the Thing of us – the force if you will – that holds us together because the Thing of us is the whole of us, while words are inherently separating and dividing. A word cannot define something without excluding everything else.

So we line up series of words in the attempt to comprehend who we are, but it is like describing cake as flour, sugar, eggs, and water that have been mixed together and baked.

Yet if we have not words – rules, beliefs, self-identity, rites – we get scared and can fly apart. We rely on descriptions of ourselves to keep us manageable to ourselves, to keep our minds from being blown. And it is okay. We need time, we need safety of belief, we need science for progress, we need to fish, we need to ask about atoms and be satisfied that the words “strong force, weak force, gravity, and magnetism” have meaning and bring order.

The red and white plastic bobbin tells us when there is a fish on our line. With time we bravely move to larger and larger lakes where we employ radar, attempting to penetrate the muck.

Sometimes we even land a fish. Sometimes we even catch a glimpse of why trucks don’t fly apart. On rarest occasion, if we are silent enough, we catch a glimpse of who we are beyond words.