Our human interface with reality

A matter of upmost gravity

Night sky in New Zealand

       The night sky, the view looking “down” from Bay of Islands, New Zealand

“Let me describe a fun way to gain a different perspective on your place in the universe. For this to work, you will need to find a location with a broad view of the night sky and stars. This is not easy for most of us who live in populated places, flooded with light from a thousand sources, street lights especially. So it may be best to remember these instructions and save them for a warm summer night, when you find yourself far from the lights of civilisation, lying on the grass, gazing up into a spectacular night sky full of stars.

Feel your back upon the ground. The pressure you feel on your back is due to gravity, the gravitational attraction between the masses of the Earth and your body, holding you down, holding you against the Earth with sufficient force to keep you in place. I use the word “down” but I should more accurately say that the gravitational attraction between you and the planet Earth is a force pushing you in the direction of the centre of the Earth. So someone in Australia experiences this force pushing them in the completely opposite direction to another person in England. Standing Australians do not think of themselves as being upside down, despite the use of the phrase “down under”, so from the planet’s perspective, up and down are rather arbitrary directions.

So now, instead of comfortably lying on your back under the stars, try to think of yourself as lying on your back on the underside of the Earth, and gazing down into that same star filled sky! Just remember, that the only force that holds you in place above this sky, is the quite modest force of gravitational attraction between your body and the larger body of the Earth behind you. Can you feel the precariousness of your position should gravity suddenly disappear? Can you get a sense of vertigo as you are suspended above this infinite dark star-filled void, just by gravity?

You can see that although nothing has changed physically, a simple change in our perspective can make us feel very different. Now as you return to your familiar way of viewing yourself upon the ground below, perhaps you have a new-found gratitude for gravity, and for the affection of mother Earth that holds us close and keeps us grounded.

I nearly forgot: despite the convenient horizontal position, I advise doing this while sober. You wouldn’t want to fall off!

Now, back to Earth.”

From Chapter Three, “Bottleneck – Our human interface with reality”, Copyright Richard Epworth

Oh my God! I'm Flying!!

Oh my God! I’m Flying!!

“Downside up, upside down.
Take my weight from the ground.
Falling deep in the sky.
Slipping in the unknown.”

From Peter Gabriel – Downside-Up