I saw the movie Gravity with my husband last weekend (no spoilers). I politely asked him if he would like to ask me to go with him to see it. This is how dates work for us these days. In the film there are only three visible characters. Sandra Bullock plays newbie Dr. Ryan Stone alongside veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski played by George Clooney.
The word “gravity” originates from gravite (French) and gravitas (Latin) which both mean “the state of being serious, important or dignified, the quality of being weighty.”
The words aggravate, grave and grieve all come from these words as well.
Gravity is also known as a force of attraction between bodies that becomes stronger as mass is increased, and make weaker as the distance between the objects is increased.
Though in the movie, both astronauts were on a space walk outside the space shuttle Explorer, Kowalski was light hearted and jovial while Stone was weighed down, responsible, anxiety-ridden, and as a result forgetting small details. This her first mission, she was the very definition of grave. The viewer eventually discovers exactly what has Dr. Stone so emotionally weighed down, as she walks weightlessly through space.
It is only through finding a thread of hope in survival that Dr. Stone is able to share her burden with Kowalski. Even as tragic events play out, there are moments of rebirth, trust, obedience, encouragement, sacrifice, and new-found motivation.
Here is the soul parallel to gravity.
Spiritual gravity resides as a natural inclination towards something or someone outside ourselves that will accept, restore and value our jaded, dented and rusty inner self. Ideas surface all through our natural atmosphere bombarding every waking moment offering escape or false-filling or temporary relief of the felt need to be All There.
It all sounds too good to be true, but not too good to believe, so we tether ourselves to all manner of solutions– we do things and we taste things and we think things and the manufactured relief is so very painfully momentary, and usually followed by shame. But it is relief, nonetheless so we stay in our own orbit rather than find a suit that will carry us from broken and here to renewed and breathing and resting way over there.
Once we are all out of other ideas, we find that protective suit, perfectly designed for us, put it on, read and train up, look to others who have done this before and commence with commencing to find the Real Thing that will fulfill all the promises and make us stronger.
The weight of finding rest for our souls is the most important internal journey we can take. The seriousness extends—not just throughout our every waking moment, minutes, hours, days and years, but for our entire soul-life-span. Space, like the soul, is searchable but endless and unfathomable. A fraction off course and doom is inevitable, but for timely awareness and precise correction before it is too late to turn back.
My husband went to space camp in Huntsville, AL in the 80s and desperately wanted to become an astronaut, doing exactly the repairs that Dr. Stone was doing. He didn’t want to pilot the ship, but be an essential engineer upon arrival. He explained to me that there is always a gravitational pull, and that, as Buzz Lightyear expressed in Toy Story, “falling with style” is essentially the explanation of orbiting. Even though earth’s gravity pulls a person towards its center, the earth is simultaneously rotating so as the earth moves, there’s a point where something is pulled with gravity, but will never “fall” all the way to make contact. I gratefully gushed to my husband after that movie that I was glad he never became an astronaut. He wistfully remarked that he wasn’t so sure. There’s a special kind of bravery and sacrifice that is involved in doing something so exact that takes extreme focus, determination, courage, and years of training. He would have been great at it.
I have no desire to visit space–even if money was no object. I have no doubt that the Bransons and the Kutchers and the Biebers who have nothing else left to buy on earth will make a space vay-cay happen in this lifetime. I do not have high hopes that they come back at all or that when they do come back they will be unchanged. I’m not saying they will get Alf-probed up there, but if/when they go out of THIS world and assuming they come back safely, they will not be the same people that boarded the craft and donned the masks. They will be changed and will not want to stop talking about it. Some people will be interested and some will be annoyed. The interested people will rotate into their orbit and the annoyed will stay far the hell away.
I think people search the depths of their souls (or don’t) for the very same reasons—either people are not at all interested, or highly motivated and ready. There are probably some pre-conceived notions and some wild expectations, even a stereotype or four, but there will be no way to fully prepare for the adventure or the aftermath.
I heard Anne Lamott say that she became a Christian because she was all out of ideas. She went into a church because she overheard and recognized the music of people who had overcome, and they let her sit there. And the air was nutritious.
That is Spiritual Gravity.
And it is very weighty business indeed.