Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love, Dark Matter, and Other Sunday Similarities

It's a few days after Valentine's Day, and yet, I still can't stop thinking about love.  Here are some snippets from my Sunday morning.

--It's chilly down here, which has become a very rare thing.  I couldn't resist doing some baking:  a cinnamon coffee cake.  Memories suffused the whole experience.  My mother used to make this coffee cake, and perhaps she still does.  It was one of the recipes I copied out as I prepared to leave home.  I've made it often through the years; it's one of my husband's favorites.  And I used my grandmother's mixing bowls, which made me think of her too.  I felt a strange mix of love and yearning for people and times that are no longer here.  But I also felt bolstered by the knowledge of love that stretches across time and the universe.

--Maybe I had the universe on the brain because of this episode of NPR's On Being show, where Krista Tippett interviews Natalie Batahla, an astronomer who studies exoplanets. She has amazing insights.

She compares love to dark energy: "This has been the surprise to me actually that my perspective on love has been so informed by science, but it has. It's been fundamentally shifted, you know. And then I read other scientists who've had the same perspective and it all kind of makes sense. I mean, Carl Sagan's quote, you know: 'For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.' This love, this idea, is this moving force. I mean, it just permeates our history, our culture. I've equated it to, you know, this analogy of dark matter. Ninety-five percent of the mass of the universe being something we can't even see, and yet it moves us. It draws us. It creates galaxies. We're like moving on a current of this gravitational field created by mostly stuff that we can't see. And the analogy with love just struck me, you know, that it's like this thing that we can't see, that we don't understand yet. It's everywhere and it moves us. And science has given me that perspective, but also in very logistical, tangible, practical ways, you know. I mean, when you study science, you step out of planet Earth. You look back down at this blue sphere and you see a world with no borders."

--She reminds us that we're decomposing stars, but she takes that idea further:  "You know, we are stardust and here I am, this bag of stardust, and it took how many billions of years for the atoms that make up my body to come together and make this being that's able to take a conscious look at the universe. I mean, I am the universe and I'm taking a look at myself through these senses that I have and that is an amazing thing."

--If you want a different perspective on the announcement that the Pope will step down, read this essay by E. J. Dionne, where he recommends that a nun should be the next Pope.  Sure, it seems improbable, but I've seen many things happen that were once deemed impossible--the fall of the Soviet Union without a nuclear war, the reunification of Germany, Nelson Mandela walking out of prison.  Once we've dreamed it, we're a good chunk of the way towards it.

--Dionne's essay also reminds us of how much good in the world has been done by Christians in general, Catholics in particular, and especially nuns.  It's a good counterpoint to all the hateful things said in the wake of the Pope's announcement.

--I am still writing a poem a day.  I know, I know, it's still early in Lent.  But I'm really enjoying this feeling of being successful.

--I'm also enjoying working on my memoir.  It, too, is a good reminder of how much good I can do in a week, even if it's one of those weeks where I feel like my main function is to read and send e-mails that aren't important even as I'm writing, reading, and responding.

--Last week, we bought an African Violet to support a justice ministry in our church.  It's still alive.  It makes me happy.  My spouse and I both had African Violets as children, and I remember my grandmother kept them on the radio cabinet.

--Most people will have tomorrow off, but we do not.  Our classes meet once a week, and having 2 Monday holidays in one term is just too much.  However, my school has Friday off.  I'm already looking forward to the writing I hope to do. 

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