By Miles Jaye
Gravity is like poverty– they both work to keep you down. When you’re getting out of bed in the morning, that’s gravity pulling you back down. Getting up from the table after a big Sunday dinner, that’s gravity making it hard to stand up, along with the biscuits and gravy and baked macaroni and cheese.
Getting up from the sofa after late night Don Lemon, an Amazon Prime movie, or your favorite late night talk show has gone off, that’s gravity making it feel like that cozy couch cushion has a lock grip on your rear end.
The force of gravity accelerates at a rate of 9.8 meters per second. No, that’s not a typo. For every second of descent, an object accelerates (gets faster) by 9.8 meters per second.
Now, I’m not big on exact conversions, so I’ve always approximated a meter to just around a yard, and 9.8 is close enough to 10 for my calculations, so imagine something, (your favorite running back or Usain Bolt), moving at 10 yards per second. Imagine this too, if the apple that clobbered Isaac Newton fell from high enough, it would have killed him on the spot, right under that tree.
The fastest human on foot was actually clocked at just over 27 mph. In the first second, gravity is moving an object at about 21 mph, but by the 10th second the object is moving in excess of 200 mph– that’s acceleration. There’s a reason I’m boring you with these fun facts.
Like gravity, poverty has an accelerating effect rather than a simple velocity. It keeps getting faster. Acceleration means the velocity of a thing keeps increasing. So, if your life conditions begin with a certain downward velocity, unless you do something to alter the effect on your descent your circumstances will quickly deteriorate to a point of no escape.
The easiest thing to do when I can’t dunk, is to blame gravity, but when I consider climbers ascending Mt. Kilimanjaro, my excuses quickly fall.
In order to explore space, one must first escape the earth’s atmosphere– gravity. That’s 25,000 mph to escape the earth’s gravitational pull. Then once in orbit, there’s no more gravity. You’re weightless, you’re free. Weight is the gravity’s pull on your mass, your body.
Escape gravity and no more weight. How’s that for a diet plan? Back to poverty… Escape the effects of poverty pulling you down, then there’s no more poverty. But, how likely is it that you can pull off a 25,000 mph getaway? Not very!
Well, the cool thing about it is, scientists decided they would need to get a little help to make escaping the earth’s pull possible. That’s like me using a trampoline to reach the rim, I just needed a boost. Ever see a dad lift his child up high enough to reach the rim?
We all just need a boost of one sort or another. Scientists began experimenting with rockets. They went up, and they went down. They discovered long after the fuel needed to launch a rocket was exhausted, gravity was still hard at work pulling the rocket right back down to earth.
They concluded it would take enough fuel to blast its way into space where they would be free of what? Gravity. Clear the area, get out of gravity’s reach.
For generations we’ve worked hard, believing hard work was the fuel needed to escape the pull of poverty. Hard work is essential… but not enough. Then we added faith to the calculation, like the sisters in Hidden Figures did in constructing their mathematical formulas.
They knew that way, way back in the 1800’s a guy determined that in addition to gravity or weight there were other forces they had to deal with– in flight. They had to factor in thrust, drag, and lift.
That knowledge propelled us to higher heights and drew us farther from the ravages of poverty. But faith and hard work were still not enough. We decided education was crucial to finally leaving poverty in the past and leading peaceful, fulfilled lives. We studied long and hard and were awarded distinguished degrees– B.S., B.A., M.B.A., J.D., M.D. and Ph.D.’s to name a few. But that would not be enough.
We finally decided that what we were dealing with is worse than gravity. Gravity plays by the rules and has never changed. We may discover new elements and behaviors of the phenomenon, but gravity has not changed.
What we’re dealing with is not simply a resistance or a force of nature, but a force of man himself. A force with changing rules we call governing, laws, statutes and democracy. Democracy is proving to be a force of gravity we mistook for propulsion.
The vote was like rocket fuel. But just when we accumulated enough force employing faith, hard work, education and civil consciousness, the rules changed again, and we watched our rockets crash down into the open field. The field of hope we’ve visited for decades, centuries. So, back to the drawing board?
Escaping poverty is possible. In fact, you may have to escape it more than once in a lifetime. The question is, what do you do when you realize the real gravity is hate?
When you realize that all your hard work, faith and beliefs, degrees, success and even wealth are subjected to a seemingly inescapable force, greater than gravity, what do you do?
What do you do when you discover, no matter how high you soar, it will never be high enough to escape the gravitational pull of hate? Who will take the podium next to demand fair treatment, humanity and compassion?
I was born into modest circumstances, so I’m well versed in navigating my way through the challenging waters of lack and limits– Lillian taught us well. However, what is exhausting, what is weight on my soul, is the gravity of hate and the agonizing pull of hostility.
Either the scientists giving birth to the new vaccines for COVID-19 should turn their attentions to irradicating this ever-present human condition which kills Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and Whites, without the presence of a virus, or let’s pray that another piece of fruit falls from a tree and brings with it a new eureka moment of clarity and the answers we need.
Otherwise, God help us all.
That’s what’s on my mind.