Image from nasa.gov
Image from nasa.gov

How I Want to Defy Gravity and Touch the Stars

Today I grumped and griped. I do everything around here. No one ever tells me thank you. No one ever offers to help. I wouldn’t have to get on to all of you if you’d pick up your stuff once in a while. 

Then I sadly sulked. I wish my life were more than dishes and groceries and picking up toys. I wish I had more time to finish writing my books. I wish I were skinnier and prettier and smarter. I would be much happier then. 

Then, my kids asked me to play frisbee with them and have a picnic in the yard. My husband wrapped his arms around me and kissed me. I visited a new bookstore with some friends. Isn’t that all you need in life? Family and friends and books? Oh, and God.

I remembered looking into the stars as a teenager and knowing how great big God is and how minuscule I am. And yet He loves me.

I’ve been reading and re-reading a book of poetry called Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith. It’s a beautiful book that grapples with the vastness of space and the heaviness of human grief. Here are some tidbits from the book:

Is God being or pure force? The wind/or what commands it? 

Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone/That the others have come and gone – a momentary blip -/When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic . . . . Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,/Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on/At twilight. Hearing the engines flair, the horns/Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be/One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial./ Wide open, so everything floods in at once

What if dark matter is like the space between people/When what holds them together isn’t exactly love, and I think/That sounds right – how strong the pull can be, as if something/That knows better won’t let you drift apart so easily, and how/Small and heavy you feel, stuck there spinning in place. 

The earth beneath us. The earth/Around and above . . . The earth/Nicked and sliced into territory./Hacked and hollowed. Stoppered tight./ Tripwire . . . . . The earth/Floating in darkness, suspended in spin./The earth gunning it around the sun./The earth we ride in disbelief . . . The earth coming off on our shoes. 

It’s as if we keep trying to defy gravity, to get beyond the idea of self, to embrace and wonder and mingle with the universe. But we never quite can because the force of human emotion always pulls us back down. We reach toward the stars, that freedom, that enormity, but we can’t ever quite break free from being earthly, being human. That’s what faith is, isn’t it? We are trying to live a spiritual life in an earthly world. Bound by our human minds and the dirt on our feet, our reach for God is never long enough. Which is why He comes to us.

Mars! Image from nasa.gov

I think Tracy K. Smith and the musician Owl City are kindred spirits and don’t know it. I recently went to an Owl City concert and have been listening to his music lately, and I realized that some of his songs are, in a way, expressing the same message as some of the poems in Life on Mars. Check out these lyrics:

Living close to the ground/Is seventh Heaven cause there are angels all around/Among my frivolous thoughts/I believe there are beautiful things seen by the astronauts/Wake me if you’re out there

Dear God, I was terribly lost/When the galaxies crossed/And the sun went dark./But dear God, You’re the only North Star/I would follow this far.

From a song called “Meteor Shower” – I can finally see that You’re right there beside me/I am not my own, for I have been made new/Please don’t let me go/I desperately need You

Way up in the air, you’re finally free/And you can stay up there right next to me/All this gravity will try to pull you down/But not this time/When the sun goes down and the lights burn out/Then it’s time for you to shine/Brighter than a shooting star/So shine no matter where you are

So his lyrics are a little more perky than the poetry of Smith (Well, writing poetry is a more difficult process and has more layers than writing lyrics – sorry, Owl City!), but he seems to get this tension between living in the heavens and living on earth. He gets the frivolity of humanity (like my grumping and sulking) and the grace of God, the God of the universe, who forgives us for taking ourselves so seriously.

So tonight, I ask for forgiveness. I, again, re-learn how to love. I look up into the sky and say – in Smith’s words – My God, It’s full of stars! 

Image from nasa.gov

3 comments

  1. I chuckled just once as I read this, because I realized perception is everything. After all, I look at your life via FB and see all the things it has that mine doesn’t. Concerts. Really? I think the last time I even WENT to a concert was high school. Bookstores? Those still exist? (joking, of course, but sometimes it feels that way!) Reading lists? Writing? You mean to tell me that there exists, in some little corner of this universe, lives where reading adult books and writing more than grocery lists are normal activities?

    Obviously I’m being a bit sarcastic here, as I know all these aspects of life and society haven’t disappeared. I have. If I lost the laundry, dishes, cleaning up after the 5 males in my family . . . I would, simply, cease to exist. Because that is what I am to those around me. I don’t have inspirational thoughts, the creative part of my brain only functions now to see if I can hold a crying baby, put an older child in time out, AND cook supper at the same time.

    I am not saying your life is perfect and mine horrible, or the other way around. I know that to some my life may look picturesque, a quaint little mommy at home surrounded by all things domestic, welcoming hard-working daddy home at 6pm with a hot meal. Except daddy doesn’t get off work until 10pm most nights, and family dinners only happen on the weekends.

    Saturday morning I was where you were this weekend- sulking because my name day had passed without any mention from those closest to me, knowing that the only reason I am loved or appreciated is not for who I am, but for what I DO. And without those actions, I am nothing. But then it hit me- I may be taken for granted sometimes by loved ones, my pain may be invisible to the outside world, but I am everything to One person- God. For God loved ME so much, ME- forget the world- ME, that He allowed his son to die on the cross. To suffer. To be humiliated. For MY salvation.

    So (((hugs))) to you, Karissa. And know you are never in this boat alone, and I am thankful you have the strength to be honest about it, as I don’t.

  2. kksorrell says:

    Cassie, you ARE important because of WHO you are!! PTL for loving us all for who we are, not for what we do or don’t do.

    One of my recurring sins is not being thankful. For everything I have, for opportunities I have. I mean, I get a break from my kids every day and I get to go do something that is mine, that I do get appreciation for sometimes. And my few hours with my family every day are a gift, and I should be thankful rather than complaining about how I never get thanked.

    It is very easy for me to forget about those who feel “invisible” – which sometimes is a friend who is elbow deep in diapers all day :) and sometimes is a relative who lives day in and day out alone, without a spouse or even a phone call from a friend, and sometimes is a loved one who is overwhelmed and sad and feels like she has no one.

    Maybe God (with the help of friends like you!) can catapult me out of my self-absorption and into a place of selfless love for others.

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