Inspiration comes to me in odd ways. Take, for example, that the inspiration for this blog came to me the other night as I sat sipping a glass of Crown Royal Apple. I was halfway through my second glass, poured neatly on the rocks, when Sir Isaac Newton came to mind.
For those who don’t know my reference, there is a popular story that Newtown was sitting under an apple tree, an apple fell on his head, and he suddenly thought of the Universal Law of Gravitation. My apple didn’t inspire a thesis on the science of gravity, but it did get me thinking more figuratively about gravitational pull; specifically, the pull that often exists between people.
As a natural phenomenon, gravity is defined as a force by which all physical bodies attract each other. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, giving them a downward force to keep them grounded. More simply, it is the force that makes things fall. Back in the 16th century, scientists would take objects to the top of the Tower of Pisa and let them go. Of course, they fell. Newton’s apple did the same. What seems an obvious outcome to us today was not so obvious before there was a defined theory to explain it.
And so I began thinking about falling and how the verb is so often used to denote a failure of some sort. We fall down, we fall short, we fall off a wagon or into peril. But the verb is also used to describe how we come to experience more rewarding circumstances: we fall asleep, things fall in place, we fall in love.
What’s most interesting to me is that of the four fundamental forces of nature (you can research the others), gravity is the weakest. And yet, we use the word “fall” to describe some pretty powerful forces in our lives. Take for example, the notion of falling in love. Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. But what if we thought about love differently?
I go back to the theory related to gravity that defines it as a force by which all physical bodies attract each other. What if the act of being in love isn’t something we fall into? What if we choose it by projecting qualities or attributes that make others gravitate toward us? Certainly we cannot control who ultimately loves us (although I think sometimes we waste too much time trying). But we can indeed offer something that makes another person stop, notice, and come in closer. How long they are willing to linger is, I think, related to whether or not they see something they think is worth getting to know better.
To illustrate my point, I go back to the apple. Consider a tree full of bright red apples. We may approach the tree eager to taste the fruit. But don’t we hesitate – for at least a moment – to choose our snack? Isn’t there always a moment when our eye strays from the initial apple to survey all the others before we choose? We may touch a few of the apples, rotate them in the sun to check out their size and shape, and squeeze them gently to check their ripeness. When we finally choose, we further assess the apple for sweetness, texture, and even crunch. If we are able to acknowledge how actively we choose an apple, why can’t we think about choosing love in a comparably active way?
The answer I think is because choosing love is scary. It is much easier to pretend that love is some mystical force that falls on us like an apple out of Newton’s tree. But love is an active verb. To choose love means that we must be open to revealing who we really are. It leaves us vulnerable. And that vulnerability increases gradually over time as we actively commit to loving another person. It’s like being in a pot full of water that’s gradually warmed on the stove. You don’t realize you’re boiling until it’s too late. And then, BAM! Your relationship is bubbling with intimacy. Over a course of months or years, you soon begin not to see yourself, but to see someone else actually seeing you. The result is a gravitational pull between two people that cannot be denied.
I’d like to have a glass of Crown Royal Apple with Mr. Newton someday. I bet he never dreamed that one little apple could imply so much.