Take a moment, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and think about what you love most in the world. What are a few words to describe how you feel?
I feel grounded and steady, like I’m rooted to the earth, or have a blanket, heavy and soft, wrapped around my shoulders. I feel a smile coming over my lips, a joy that feels like laughter and tears washing over me, astonishment that what I love exists. I feel a tugging, from deep within my belly, a yearning to be close to what I love. I feel excitement because I know that when I am immersed in what I love, the opportunity for creation is endless.
Love shapes our human bonds, our choices, and whatever we may identify as our purpose in life. Love is a reason for tremendous creation and destruction in our species, and the boundaries of who is included within our love create the lines in the sand beyond which lies the land of “other,” the land of “them.” If I asked any cross section of humanity to precisely define love, I would receive mostly frustrated, confused responses. If I asked you to describe it, the answers would come flooding in, full of adjectives, poetry, strong feelings, and just by thinking about love, your body would physiologically change.
Buckminster Fuller, beloved American architect, systems theorist, polymath, poet once wrote, “love is metaphysical gravity.” To some this is a statement that lands naturally, for others it’s an idea that seems alien and confusing. After all, the meaning of metaphysics has changed tremendously in the last few hundred years, and we don’t really know much about gravity either. To make a statement equating something so deeply personal that our motivations are shaped by a longing for it from the morning we are born with something as abstract and impersonal as our grade school lessons about Newton’s law of universal gravitation seems, to some, at first absurd. This disconnect is because our culture doesn’t tend to cultivate awareness about gravity as much as, perhaps, we should.
If I asked anyone at all to precisely define gravity to me, just as with love, it wouldn’t be easy and it wouldn’t be precise. If I ask you now, to be fully where you are, and observe how gravity feels, after a moment of contemplation, you would have something interesting to say.
For me, now, as I write this, and stop to notice- I realize how much of my body is resisting gravity. I’m sitting in bed, but most of the muscle groups in my body are tensed, holding me in an alert and slightly uncomfortable position to be working on my laptop. I take my hands off the keyboard, move the computer to the side, and spend a few moments moving the joints of my hands, arms, and shoulders in circles. I allow my head to fall to the side, and then down, and slowly bring it back to center, leaning it back against the pillow behind me. I scan my body for any tension, resistance, any muscle activity at all. As I scan, I notice the compression of my pants around my hips, I feel the weight of my dog’s head resting on my ankle, and the subtle pressure of the blanket between us on the rest of my legs. More subtle still, I feel my body settling into the mattress and pillows beneath it, feel myself being pulled to this planet.
This relationship with gravity, this ability to drop the physical tension in my body in an instant is new. A few years ago I took a movement course from Matthew Nelson which completely changed my relationship with gravity and my body. This course came during a time of my life when I was spending a lot of time with my father, a psychologist and author who only ever talked about love, who was dying of pancreatic cancer. The course was a tool that I chose to use during this time to allow me to process and express the deep feelings of dread, longing, confusion, love, and sorrow that come with anticipatory grief. Most of the movement practice had to do with surrendering to gravity, yielding, noticing what it feels like to not be straining, even if just for a moment. The word ‘yield’ was carefully chosen by Matthew in this practice, because of its dual meaning. Yes, it means to surrender, but it also describes harvest. In yielding to gravity with consciousness every day, I was able to begin to understand in an embodied sense what Buckminster Fuller might have been talking about.
I began to know the felt experience of being held gently to my place on this planet, I felt the love that I have for this earth more strongly than ever because I felt that love as a mutuality. Through gravity, I felt the earth as alive and beloved, and that I was beloved by the earth. A poem by Raymond Carver which describes this was pulsing through my heart during this time, and I made art with that poem, writing its words on my heart. I began to felt a deeper commitment to making good use of my time here on this planet. I noticed my anxiety lessen, and my mind expand.
A few months into this practice, I visited the California Institute of Integral Studies to explore the option of a Masters in Cosmology, Consciousness, and Philosophy. While in the building, I had three hours worth of conversations about this beautiful correlation, and learned about the presence of great bands of gravitational waves at the outer edge of our galaxy.
Spiral arm galaxies, like our Milky Way home, are shaped by the forces that make stars. There seem to be vast gravitational arms that spiral through the cosmos, bending space-time, and concentrating space dust into new forms. Sometimes, this results in the precise concentrations of hydrogen and helium atoms needed to begin the process of nuclear fusion, and new stars, new gas giants, new planets and moons begin their cosmic dance.
The most simple interpretation of “love is metaphysical gravity” is that the two invisible forces pull things together.
In Systems Theory terms, the two forces bring about emergent properties, systems that are created from two or more other systems coming into contact. We, for example, are an emergent property of our biological parents, but not only them. We are an emergent property of all of our human ancestors, the cultures they built, the meaning and purpose that fueled them, the love and care they provided their children so that we, one day, would live. We are also an emergent property of the rest of the species of the earth, every single organism that has lived to transform matter on this planet for the last 4.54 billion years. We are also the emergent property of the pulsing, breathing metabolizing forces that have been shaping this cosmos for at least 13.82 billion years.
Every creation is an emergent property, of not just two, but infinite dynamic systems throughout time and space giving rise to all that we know in creation.
Love and gravity both generate the conditions for this creation, and, given time, evolution. I believe that when Bucky wrote “love is metaphysical gravity” he was helping us to understand two different ways that we experience syntropy, the universal force that counterbalances the entropy of an ever expanding universe. Syntropic forces, including love, gravity, life, and evolution, are difficult to identify, because it’s much easier to see when things fall apart (entropy). When things are operating harmoniously, whether they be our bodies, our households, our social networks, or our biosphere, our solar system we hardly notice them.
The forces of syntropy in our lives regenerate chaos back into harmony, they support us in finding meaning and coming home to ourselves. I believe we have the responsibility to understand and embody these principles, not merely to understand them.
To that end, today is Valentine’s Day, and I am committing my life ever deeper to the path of love, and I do not begrudge being held close to the body of this earth. I am grateful you are here with me.