Defying the cycle of thought…

Posts tagged “gravity

Emblem of Lightness.

My emblem for lightness is the image of a cloud. The thing about a cloud I find interesting, is that as a kid, you imagine jumping up on clouds as if they are cotton ball fluffs in the sky. However, at some point you grow up, lose your innocence, and you realize clouds are nothing more than particles of dust, that if you jumped onto one, you would fall right through until you crashed into the ground. Gravity would take a hold of you. However, if you think about a cloud, those particles of dust have to be light enough to defy gravity. They have to be light enough to practically float. Therefore, the image of a cloud is so light, it could not possible sustain any more weight. Once it compiles too many rain particles, a cloud bursts. It is now too heavy.

A cloud, like letters, has a sort of lifespan. A cloud, also like letters, implies a sort of dream. The dream is that clouds hold weight- that they could hold us. The dream of letters, is that they hold meaning. However, letters and clouds are light. If you jumped on a cloud, you would fall. It is only through stringing letters and words together that weight can be formed. It is only through rain particles compiling in a cloud, that weight can be obtained – but, ironically, this weight is the demise to the cloud.

There is something nice in the lightness, in this knowing that things don’t really last, that, like a dream, they don’t hold long-lasting implications. If something is light, it can’t touch us. It can’t hurt us. Light things are easier to cope with than heavier ones. If we can keep ourselves trapped in the lightness of a dream, in the lightness of language, thought, visual images – we can defy the burden of weight. At least until the next storm.


Analogy of Lightness.

The fairytale entitled, “The Light Princess” by George MacDonald illustrates this idea of lightness. In this tale, a young princess has a curse upon her that results in her having no gravity. While at first, this seems to simply relate to the princess’s body, to her inability to stay on the ground – she floats up in the air whenever she is not constrained – it soon becomes clear, that the princess also has a lightness of mind. She cannot cry, she cannot take things seriously – basically, there is no weight to her thoughts. This story emphasizes the idea that gravity is not only something that constrains the body, but also constrains thought. The image of a princess – someone grounded by duty and family – being light in body and mind, epitomizes Calvino’s description of lightness.

Another instance of lightness, and this is what I also realized to be my personal motto, is the scene and song entitled “Defying Gravity” from Wicked: The Musical. The song title itself illustrates this idea that if you can defy gravity, you can achieve lightness. Visually, in the play, this scene shows Elphaba, the Witch, rising high up in the air on her broom. This is interesting because she is a witch dressed in black – something associated with weight and power and darkness. These ideas are all heavy. Instead, though, the audience sees her rise up into the air – literally defying gravity. In the song, Elphaba talks about how no one can bring her down, and in response the townspeople shout out that this is the very thing they are going to attempt to do. Here we see the clashing of heavy versus light – and the fact that Elphaba is flying up high illustrates that she can rise above it. Also, Elphaba’s thoughts are heavy, but she is able to defy the gravity of her thoughts and rise up to great heights to escape her death, the ultimate burden in life.

Excerpt from the song lyrics:

(spoken) I know:
(sung) But I don’t want it –
No – I can’t want it

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

Can’t I make you understand?
You’re having delusions of grandeur:

I’m through accepting limits
”cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down:
(spoken) Glinda – come with me. Think of what we could
do: together.


However, there is a difference between the lightness seen in this scene in Wicked and the lightness seen in The Dreamlife of Letters. In The Dreamlife of Letters there is a lightness that is definitely present, however it is really only seen because we become aware of the lack of weight. Meanwhile, in Wicked, Elphaba seems the very opposite of light, instead, there is a sort of spitefulness to her defying gravity, a sort of finding a loophole against the weight. It seems less innocent. Elphaba’s lightness, if possible, seems heavier. At the same time, Elphaba conquering the weight, defying it, seems a more accomplished feat than those of letters flitting across a page. While Elphaba’s lightness provides substance to her image, the fleeting words seem less significant due to their lack of weight.

Lightness Defined.

I wrote this recently on my other blog: I think the key to words and the formation of them – the stringing together of letters and words to form thoughts and sentences – is awareness. It is about awareness of what it means to speaker and what it might mean to audience. It is awareness of multiple meanings and implied meaning and intended meaning. Words are gray. They are foggy and sometimes you have to blink a couple times to even maybe catch a glimpse of meaning. Words don’t always make sense. And that is kind of the beauty of words. It is also the frustration. Sometimes I just want to throw books against walls and listen to the sounds they make as they fall to the ground, as gravity takes control of them. I want, for a moment, to take away the heaviness of the words – for one second to make them light. But nothing lasts – and so the words must fall and collapse and become as confusing as ever. And I just have to smile.

Calvino describes lightness in a couple different ways. He mentions a lightness of language. In this case, the words themselves are light in meaning, texture, in the context they are used. Therefore, a lightness of language implies a sort of lightness of thought. The words you use don’t hold much weight, they are subject to change, they do not last long enough to have much impact. The second idea of lightness has to do with the idea that a train of thought might be heavy, but the parts of it – the smaller ideas or words that make it up, are lighter. Letters, themselves, are light, but you can string them together in a way to create weight. Words and sentences can create tangible thoughts. A train of thought is comprised of subtle elements at work, light elements – and it is only through the process of tying these elements together, that a sort of weight is formed. Calvino reflects upon a third aspect: a visual image that acquires emblematic value. This image epitomizes the idea of lightness, or in other words, the absence of weight. There is this idea that we feel the absence or presence of lightness based off of the absence or presence of weight. We can only really experience lightness when we have disregarded the heaviness. If we can dissect the weight long enough, then maybe we can shed some “light” on a subject.

Looking back at some books I have read, I have definitely noticed the idea of lightness present in them. It is so interesting now to see how many of my favorite books illustrate this idea. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite writers, so I will probably mention her a couple times in this blog. Right now I am thinking about one of her newer books entitled Handle with Care. The first chapter opens with the following:

Things break all the time. Glass, dishes, and fingernails. Cars and contracts and potato chips. You can break a record, a horse, a dollar. You can break the ice. There are coffee breaks and lunch breaks and prison breaks. Day breaks, waves break, voices break. Chains can be broken. So can silence, and fever.

For the last two months of my pregnancy, I made lists of these things, in the hopes that it would make your birth easier.

Promises break.

Hearts break.

On the night before you were born, I sat up in bed with something to add to my list. I rummaged in my nightstand for a pencil and paper, but Sean put his warm hand on my leg. Charlette? he asked. Is everything okay?

Before I could answer, he pulled me into his arms, flush against him, and I fell asleep feeling safe, forgetting to write down what I had dreamed.

It wasn’t until weeks later, when you were here, that I remembered what had awakened me that night: fault lines. These are the places where the earth breaks apart. These are the spots where earthquakes originate, where volcanoes are born. Or in other words: the world is crumbling under us; it’s the solid ground beneath our feet that’s an illusion.

From this opener, we already get this sense that things are fallible; they are not always as strong or heavy as we think  they are. They hold weight, yes, but this weight can break.Often times, there is only this illusion that our weight can be upheld. There is a lightness at heart in knowing we are safe, or at least thinking we are. However, there is also this idea that things are destined to break overtime, that the weight of the world will get to them.

The main storyline in this novel has to do with a young girl who is born with osteogenesis imperfecta,  a disease that makes her bones brittle and very easy to break. She is subjected to suffering hundreds of broken bones and a lifetime of pain. She is so light, so fragile – it is hard for her not to get hurt. Often times she is in a a wheelchair, because she is too light to even support her own weight. However, she has this lightness of mind, this optimism of spirit. She is light at heart, despite the heaviness and severity of her condition.


On my other blog, I have a page where I analyze a picture in terms of its “lightness.” However, an interesting twist is that the photo has only achieved lightness because it has been manipulated. This idea of manipulation, in a way, can take away from the lightness. But try not to think about that. Instead, focus on the ways in which the manipulation gives life to the photo. Young at Heart.