How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
– Rilke, Book of Hours
All the natural movements of the soul are
controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity.
– Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
I am watching my old white cat decline day by day, pieces of my heart falling helplessly into his dimming green eyes. We move together in a downward pull toward something inexorable.
Dying is a kind of gravity, a letting go, a natural tug down toward the earth, toward dust, “toward the heart of the world.” But so, too, for those left behind. The gravity of grief pulls one back down to earth’s heart, the essentials, the center: what matters.
I tend to think of the earth—earthiness itself—as God’s body. To try and separate soil from spirit only compounds the grief. Rather than a remote “King,” judging and ruling from on high, God is more like the suffering and compassionate Jesus, or as Whitehead says: “the great companion—the fellow-sufferer, who understands.”
God is also like a grieving mother, a loving heart gently tugging us toward an eternal embrace that is both earth and sky, spirit and soil, death and transformation. Such is a natural theology, one which sees God not just in vague and distant impressions of another—more perfect—world, but in the eyes of an old white cat and in the cries a refugee child and in our own longings to belong to the whole.
The gravity of grief nudges us tenderly toward the womb of God in whom “we live and move and have our being.” God’s maternal song for us is like gravity—a pull, a tug, a nudge toward beauty and compassion and justice.
The pull of gravity in times of death and dying may be nature’s way of winnowing out the chaff and bringing us down to earth, to what matters in the end: love and beauty, earth and sky, death and resurrection—united in one eternal embrace.
The tenderness of God is the welcoming womb that catches everything as it falls: cats and people and flowers and dreams.
Gravity takes us home.