Recently, my wife and I went away for a weekend. I can’t remember the last time we packed our bags and left the children with their grandparents for two whole nights. Frankly, our preference is always to do things with them when we can, because in addition to loving them, we like them! But we decided to seize the moment and take that rare opportunity to go on an extended “date.”
I know that it must have been a while since we had been away, because we couldn’t stop smiling. We laughed and shopped. We ate quiet meals together without negotiating the best restaurant for four children and two adults. We held hands, but no one else was touching us, pulling us in different directions, or asking us to find anything. It was positively, delightfully spooky.
We found ourselves falling asleep everytime we sat still, whether watching a movie or looking out the window. Turns out, we were fatigued! Fortunately, our weekend left us rested and recharged, both physically and emotionally. It reminded us of the absolute necessity for parents to dote on one another. And for couples to spend time – not doing, just being.
But as I looked back over our little trip through paradise, it occurred to me that many of the problems of modern culture, like our own weariness, can be tied to a well-known concept in physics: inertia. If you remember your high-school science, you know that inertia is simply the tendency of an object to stay as it is. Put more simply, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by some other force.
For those of us who spend lots of time in the car, it’s the reason your drink and donuts don’t make the curve with you. They just keep going in the same direction, even when you turn the car. It’s also the reason that your spouse’s dresser seems anchored to the floor, but moves just fine once you get going.
Parents, and their children, are often objects in motion. Between my work at the hospital and my wife’s job of educating the children, Jan and I rarely stop. We take the children to multiple lessons and we are engaged in the life of a wonderful church. The kids are involved in sports, and we each have our hobbies and interests. Our inertia is one of being “objects in motion.” The only thing that slowed us down this time was the opportunity for rest, and the decision to take it.
Many of our friends seem on an endless forward trajectory. Their children go to school, have after-school clubs and sports, come home to do homework, then have weekend events to attend. The parents work long hours, still involve themselves in the activity of their kids, work-out in the gym, volunteer at the shelter (animal or human) and then stay up late cleaning, doing laundry and helping their young with projects.
We all need an outside force to slow us down; the equivalent of gravity and friction on objects. It usually takes an act of will. Otherwise, family discord, economic struggles, illness or death are the consistent, inevitable checks against our inertia.
However, inertia has two sides. There are those whose inertia is one of inactivity. The combination of comfortable couches, hundreds of vapid television shows and a vast, frequently worthless Internet has left untold men and women, boys and girls stuck in the inertia of inactivity. It’s part of the reason for our epidemic of obesity, though our dietary habits contribute mightily. Inertia is also created by alcohol, drugs and dysfunctional relationships.
This frozen inertia leads many people to lives without meaning, filled with anxiety, depression and emptiness. Inertia causes an inability to creatively seek employment and causes the unnecessary loss of employment through poor work habits. It leads some able folks to pursue disability. It leads to ignorance, for lack of attempting to learn. It results in lack or loss of relationships from the failure to even try to actually engage and give affection in a meaningful way. And it hurts spouses and children who find themselves untouched, unloved, because love requires effort.
It took a weekend away to remind me of inertia’s power. I just hope that from time to time we can all apply the energy necessary to stop – or go – as our lives and loves demand.
*This blog post was originally published at edwinleap.com*