Gravity, love and exotic anticipation

The glass half empty view would suggest that 18 odd hours in economy class is unredeemable … however with so little time to sit still in recent weeks I found myself relishing the prospect. I had a pile of bits and pieces of work to review and then a veritable feast of interesting things to feed my mind and soul on.

One of the articles was a fascinating piece Mohan passed on to me called “The Universe is a Green Dragon: reading meaning in the cosmic story” by Brian Swimme. The main reason I enjoyed it was his linking of gravitational attraction to love. You’re joking aren’t you, I hear you say …

I love physics, and I must confess gravity has always held a special place for me. This extraordinary attractive force between any objects with mass, that no one can explain. We can model it and predict how it will behave – yes, but why it happens remains a mystery. Swimme suggests that since the universe is all made of the same stuff, and it is expanding since its original creation, the forces that bring us together are fundamental to our long term sustainability. It has been said that love makes the world go around, after reading Swimme I’m more inclined to say that love holds the world together.

(As I write, I’ve just witnessed an amazing anecdote of cultural expression. I’m sitting here in an airport in the Middle East surrounded by unfamiliar décor, sounds and smells. An Anglo looking woman asked if she could sit on the other side of my table … despite being 12:30am the place is packed and buzzing and places to sit are very rare. All of a sudden she exclaimed (we hadn’t really talked except exchanged pleasantries) that she’d left her watch on the plane, a watch that her father had given her for her 50th birthday.

I offered to watch her bags for her while she scurried back to see if it was recovered in the cleaning process. She said, “You are an Aussie aren’t you? I’m an Irish Australian so I trust you explicitly. Thanks.” And off she went.

She just returned a few minutes ago, and said, “Only an Aussie would offer to do that.” I suggested that wasn’t necessarily the case, but she argued that in her experience it was certainly more likely. The point I involuntarily end up thinking is the trust that comes with familiarity. Both ways.

Would I have offered if it had been a white robed local? Would they have accepted?)

Back to my smorgasbord of in-flight reading. Having been enriched by two of Alain de Botton’s other books (Status Anxiety and The Architecture of Happiness) I keenly purchased his The Art of Travel alongside Jeffrey Sach’s new title, CommonWealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. I haven’t touched Sachs yet, but de Botton hasn’t disappointed.

I loved his essay on anticipation. He discusses how our idyllic notions of a place, especially from a holiday perspective, are often unrealised when we are actually there. His striking conclusion, when reflecting an episode from his own travels is, “A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making its first appearance; that I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.”

So here I am in an unquestionably exotic location. I look out my hotel window at the distinctly Arab architecture and air thick with humidity to the Gulf and the mountains in the distance. The opportunities for connection with extraordinary people and ideas over the next week at the Society for Organisational Learning Forum are significant. I hope the reality that I’ve bought myself, with my own insecurities, prejudices and biases doesn’t get in the way.

2 thoughts on “Gravity, love and exotic anticipation

  1. Hey Col – sounds like you’ve got a stack of interesting reading lined up (and exciting travel, too).

    It’s nice to see a mention of Brian Swimme & Green Dragon – the cosmology stuff is something my Dad has been into for quite a while, and I read that book around 10 years ago. I don’t think much of it sunk in though – a decent portion of what it covered was probably beyond what I understood at that point – but I remember it sparking some interesting thoughts.

  2. Pat,its one of those pieces that on the one hand is pretty ‘out there’, yet it also reads as kind of self evident. My emotional response includes being conscious of how linear, segmented and rational we can be in tackling big questions. Swimme certainly challenges that, by not only being multi-disciplinary in the usual sense of that, but connecting other arenas not usually in dialogue.

    I finished off de Botton yesterday … there is a great ‘twist’ at the end … which you wouldn’t typically say of a non-fiction piece … he comes full circle on his ‘escape London for the Barbados’ story and unpacks Pascal’s quote, ‘The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quiet in his room.’

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