The full moon was floating like a balloon in the western sky as I drove to work this morning. The sun just starting to add a pink glow to the steam rising from the buildings downtown as I made my way through traffic at this ungodly hour. The Mazda leaned into the curves, the steering wheel tugging back on my hands with a satisfying feel as the interstate snaked through the city. Is there any better feel when driving a car than the bite of the tires as you enter a turn and centrifugal force tries to throw you off the road? There is something visceral about the feel of speed that will always draw men (and women) to push whatever vehicle they control right to the very limits of physics.
Perhaps it’s the feel of the chase encoded in our DNA from our Paleolithic ancestors running to bring down a mammoth with their spear points. Or maybe there’s some unknown organ hiding in our brain that releases some wonderful chemical when it feels the tug of gravity pulling at it; our moods rising like the tide as the full moon tugs at the earth.
At this latitude we spin at 700 miles per hour oblivious to the tug and pull of celestial bodies. Our earth flies around its orbit at a further 67,000 miles per hour without our feeling the slightest force. Yet the slight pull of my Mazda as it dips into a curve is still enough to excite my senses. Physics is a funny thing. For all we know and have speculated about the forces that move celestial bodies around us we still puzzle to really grasp them in our little brains. Well, I do at least. I can’t speak for Stephen Hawking.
Staring at the heavens our Paleolithic ancestors must have felt the same thing for as long as man has lived we have projected the causes of our struggles upon the movement of the stars and planets. Many of us still do. The stars align, the planets conjoin, and the earth trembles. Surely the center cannot hold forever. Surely there will come a point at which the wheels slip, and rubber no longer grips the road. A point at which we are overcome by one force or another, and sent hurtling towards our demise.
I press down upon the accelerator, and feel the force increasing, a smile breaking out across my face. Until that day, may our senses still tingle at gravity’s pull.