I saw the movie ‘Gravity’ this week. If you haven’t seen it already, I suggest you don’t read this post further. This isn’t a review but it may contain spoilers.
Watching Sandra Bullock free float in outer space for two hours made me think how much gravity limits as well as defines our existence. How wonderful of course, to have freedom of movement in all three dimensions! Who cares about three? In outer space, in zero gravity, there’s no up, down or forward or backward. It’s so silent in zero gravity, so peaceful, so beautiful.
Then I realize that female astronauts need to circle round and round to have their periods as normal, since centripetal (centrifugal?) force replaces gravity’s work in making the menstrual flow, well, flow. Do their insides explode from pent-up menstrual fluid if they don’t, then? Is being pulled to something so crucial to our existence?
Dr.Ryan Stone struggles with letting go, tangibly and metaphorically. And eventually, learns how to do it, so that she can stay connected. To life and the living, yes. But let go so you can hold on — how meta-twisted is that?
I had a conversation with someone who had been in a serious relationship for almost a decade (is there anyway a relationship that long is not serious?).
“He knew me better than I knew myself.”
she said, about that relationship, now over. She seems to struggle with the weightlessness that comes from not being tethered to a person, to a relationship.
I couldn’t imagine that, at first. After all, I have never been in a relationship that long. And I’ve changed so much from year to year, that I cannot even imagine what it’s like for the environment around (the relationship being the most intimate, crucial part of it) to stay the same. Right now, that feels suffocating to me. But then, that’s because, as compared to her, I have been free-floating for all my adult life.
But I remember what it was like to end my first serious relationship. We’d known each other for five years, five of those important, personality- and attitude- defining adolescent years. I felt exactly as if I were a satellite that had gotten shaken loose from its mother planet and was free-floating alone through the galaxy. Terribly scary. Those were dark times. It was many years before I learnt how to ration my oxygen and appreciate the view (yes, metaphorically, duh). No relationship has ever hurt me so badly again but then again, nothing has held and defined me that closely, since.
I’m not sure how I feel about relationships now. The thought of marriage and its structuredness, all the putting-your-happiness-in-other-people’s-hands that it involves, the loss of flight freedom is enough to make me panic, exactly the way I did over a decade ago, at the thought of going into free float. But I miss the comfort, the living experience that love and intimacy with another human being provides. I know it dimly, half-remembered from what feels like another lifetime. And loneliness often feels tiring, like the effort to ration breathing and constantly reorient oneself is starting to run me down.
It’s just like gravity. There is a universe to be explored without it. And life to be experienced with it.
Earth, courtesy Apollo 17, and probably the most reproduced image of all time (Photo credit: woodleywonderworks)