Whoa! Friday the papers were filled with news of one of the greatest events in astrophysics. We heard for the first time the sound of gravitational waves, a quick rising blip ending at middle C. Here it is:
It was transmitted from one billion light years away by the merging of two black holes with a force fifty times greater than that generated by all the stars in the universe.
The result confirmed a century old prediction by Albert Einstein. He saw the universe as a field of space and time that curved and twisted with the events that took place “within” it, rather than “upon” Isaac Newton’s flat billiard table surface cosmos (at least so far as my little physics for poets mind grasps it).
With my usual grandiosity, the announcement and event offered me an opportunity to reflect on my very local experience of space and time and our relation to each other. The simplest of tasks, getting out of bed, getting dressed, getting to the table, and so on all take longer than before I was in a wheelchair. I move around in patterns, especially with a two way toggle switch, much more complicated than simply walking. But my sense of time is internalized from the years when I moved freely or even with the aid of, a cane or walker.
When Sheila asks me how long before I’ll be out of the bathroom, it might turn out double the time I tell her. Not that I’m not mindful. In fact, the opposite may be true. I’m focussed. It might be closer to the way in which time “slows down” for an athlete in the zone. I need to pay attention to each movement or step in the process I’m performing.
Watching 22 month old Caito, I think my pace doing some things is toddler like. Buttoning up, figuring out and often failing to get the right fingers of my hand or only one into each finger of my glove, holding a fork, bringing a cup to my lips without swinging out of my grip are just a few of the fine motor skills he’s mastering and I’m struggling to maintain!
In addition, as with gravity, small changes have, from the point of view of those without illness, disproportionate effects. For example, while transferring to my wheelchair, an apparently small shift of my body in response to someone’s well intentioned, but ill timed, attempt to help, while trying to gain leverage to swing out of bed from a sitting position might cause a leg to spasmodically kick out and throw me into an incline plane on the edge of the mattress at risk of sliding to the floor. Gravity, time, space and me! My sound, “Damn! “