Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I'm no astronomer. I don't really understand the expansion of the universe. In discovering the law of gravity, Newton uncovered the fact that all objects in the universe are attractive, each pulling at and towards each other. For the universe to be ever-expanding, then, seems quite a paradox.

What, then, is it expanding into? Well, as it turns out... nothing. The universe is finite and not growing. It circles back upon itself and all journeys to its 'edge' are thereby inherent returns to one's starting point. The constant expansion that astronomers speak of is actually an increasing distance between the relative parts of the universe... still a paradox, though, if everything is supposed to be attractive.

For me, all things are echoes. I've always felt this way. What happens on any one level of life, somehow is echoing in all of the others. Thus, I too am expanding. Not physically, but certainly relatively. I expand away from my childhood. I expand away from old friends and old beliefs. I move partly because of inertia -- in other words, like the universe, I move because I've always been moving. I also move because of the impelling force of my own inner dark matter. And always, I move back to the beginning. Or try to.

To expand is to unfold, like an indigo blue bunting opening its wings before flight.

To expand is to open your horizons. To learn, yes, but even more than that to open your heart to learning... to be willing to question everything you know, including your very self.

To expand is to express more fully. To go from a thesis statement to an essay where more is explained and thoughts are developed.

Are these things we are always doing? Or just hope to be doing? Are we expanding? Can we not be?

With Christmas just passed, my mind has returned to beginnings... or earlier times. Times when Christmas held that certain magic for me, the magic that only a child can enjoy and spread. When and how it is lost, I have never understood. I tried to hold onto it for so long -- going through all of the same processes in dire desperation. Making the same gingerbread houses. Listening to CDs of Christmas songs. Decorating the tree with ornaments our family has acquired since before I was born -- glass ornaments with my name and my brothers' names etched upon them, needlepoint ornaments sewn by my mother, funny little skiing bears and pirouetting clay cookie girls... everything is there... all of the memories. But I have expanded away from the magic.

I don't do this anymore, but one of the other things I used to do, out of habit (inertia, hope, nostalgia) was to watch all of the Christmas specials that air each year on TV. My favorite was The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. After he steals all of the presents (and well, EVERYTHING) from Whoville, after he plants himself high up on his mountain to watch their sad, crying faces react to the discovery that they now have no presents, no Christmas, what the Grinch actually sees is that Christmas is something else to the Whos. Out they come, singing, making a circle, holding hands... and celebrating life itself it seems. And it is this realization for the Grinch, the realization that they need nothing else but each other, that causes the Grinch's heart to grow three sizes that day.

So it is with less, that his heart grows more. Less that is concrete that is. More that is intangible, spiritual one may say... or just true and deep comprehension of what was never before known. It is with understanding that his expansion occurs.

Expansion is not always a positive. Suburbs can over-expand. So can waistlines and McMansions and SUV sizes. Classroom size can expand so much that even the best teachers can't teach as well as they'd like, being unable to give appropriate attention to each student. Wars can expand. Drought can expand. Pain and grief can expand, for years and years, instead of contracting.

Love also can expand. I have nothing earth-shattering to say or suggest or question today. But I think that as the universe expands, and at an ever-accelerating rates, so should our hearts. As everything quickens and life seems to move ever faster and ever away, and all sometimes seems at increasing distances, so should we press our hearts to match the distance opened. In relationships, if love is not expanding, then there is no growth. But remember, expansion comes, in part, out of dark forces and matter. It is not easy and it might be painful. We must be compelled to MAKE our love expand; it will not do so by itself. Our bodies, like the universe, are finite, but our empathy is not. While our inclinations and our fantasies expand, maybe our hearts pull everything back, hold everything together. Expand to your outer edges and back into your core. Discover other realms and rediscover the magic.

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