Love and Gravity: Heavy thoughts for Christmas

Love and gravity both pull us together. What else do they have in common?

Gravity is the weakest of the fundamental forces over short distances, but it is strongest over long distances. Human action over short distances is often caused by greed or anger. You scam and cheat the people nearest you. The Internet fuzzes this a bit, but if we take “time to reach” as a measure of distance, people travel much father for someone they love than someone they hate.

What else?

All objects with mass have a gravitational pull on each other. All with love in their hearts love all who are the same. My love for animals has helped me to love people more; a sick human being can be scary, but so can a sick dog. Spiritually wounded animals, human or otherwise, bite anyone who would help them, from fear. It was easier for me to love a wounded dog that snarled than a wounded man who shouted, but loving one made me love the other.

What else?

Gravity is limited; it cannot overcome the electromagnetic force. The distance between two atoms of oxygen in a molecule is the closest gravity can bring the atoms before the electromagnetic force takes over. This electromagnetic force is driven in part by the Pauli exclusion principle, which says no two electrons can have the same wave function. In a sense, electrons work to maintain their identity, just like people do.

What else?

A molecule’s mass – which is what gives it gravitational pull, and makes it pulled –  is not just the sum of the masses of the atoms in it. There is also the binding energy mass – the mass corresponding to the energy that would be released should the bonds of the molecule break.

In the same sense, the love of a group of people is more than the individual amount they can love on their own. Our groups give us strength, and the more tight-knit a group, the more love it can give to the outside world. A couple who is loving to each other can give more of that love to friends and family than a couple who is less loving.

I see a world of atoms, a world of similar patterns layered on top of each other. People in cold places are orderly and cling together, people in warmer places like spicier food and shouting at football games. Children in innertubes on a lake clump together like Cheerios in a bowl –  surface tension and social tension have similar patterns.

The pattern I see most recurrent is that of individuals and groups, and their mutual dependence. Without individual identity, there can be no groups. Without groups, individual identity has no meaning.  When I focused too much on myself, I was unhappy because I could not make sense of the outside world. When I focused too much on the outside world, I could not make sense of myself. I learned that trying to put myself last was just as selfish as putting myself first, that a healthy body needs healthy cells, and that taking care of myself was necessary to fulfill my desire to do good for others.

There are still things that upset me, but by focusing on the patterns of physics and working on living my day to day life better, I feel I have found peace with the world as a whole. I do not know about the god hypothesis, but I finally see the whole picture in a positive light. There are certainly details I don’t like, but I see those parts of the picture improving and I can see a vision of the future where they no longer exist. The faith I had as a child was painful to lose, but the faith I’ve built through logic and experience is far stronger. A light as bright as love can burn your eyes, but you cannot see in darkness, either.

At the start, we blew apart, our matter and our minds. The universe provides a way to recollide another day, to be with friends and family once again.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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