Thirty, he thought, the speed limit was forty-five. His hand barely glided atop the wind as it hung out the car window. His mother wasn’t a risk taker. Not like him. He was the boy who would trade his entire childhood if it meant being old enough to drive. The minimum age was all he needed to be, no sense in being older than necessary.
      “Dylan put your arm in the car before it gets chopped off,” his mother shouted.
      He did as told, no need for an argument.

      He really did wish his mother had a heavier foot. Not that he was in a hurry to get to where they were going anyway. He just loved speed, every aspect of it. He was yet to be told by more experienced children that the faster one accelerates the greater the risk of crashing. But he was a risk taker.

      The car finally stopped. Mrs. Rooney was waiting on the front porch of the house already eager to greet the two. Dylan was the first out of the car and Mrs. Rooney swiftly made her acquaintance with a motherly embrace smothering Dylan’s head into her blouse.
      “Oh, bless your heart.” She added a quick kiss on the top of his head. “Martha, you’re saving my life I hope you know."
     “Oh, it’s no problem really. Dylan is glad to help Ryan, aren’t you Dill?” She gave her son a strict stare.
     “You bet Mrs. Rooney. No problem,” he said.

     But there was a problem, for he never actually agreed to be there voluntarily. His mother had to bribe him. No chores for a week and a new set of Matchbox cars was the payment he would receive if he spent four hours with Ryan trying to help him socialize, whatever that meant. He went to school with Ryan up until a couple years ago when his mother pulled him out to home school him. Ryan was not like any other child. He was much slower at getting chores done and couldn’t respond to people as quickly as other kids. Everything about him was slow, which is what annoyed Dylan the most.

     But Mrs. Rooney came to their house crying on his mother’s shoulder because Ryan stopped talking all together. The sanctity of a mother’s tears will slow down the rapidly maturing heart of any child, including Dylan. As much as he yearned to grow up he couldn’t prevent the feeling of helplessness that came with the sight of a grownup crying. So he agreed to accept the bribe. 

     In the bedroom, Ryan sat in a solid blue covered chair with his arms drooping down from his shoulders. Dylan sat across from him avoiding eye contact. He mostly stared at the carpet which was a very bland brown, not exciting.

     “You wanna play cards?” Dylan asked, but no response was given. “Can you hear me?”
     He waved his hands in front of Ryan’s eyes. It scared him a little because it seemed as if there was no life in Ryan at all. What was up with this kid? One thing Dylan noticed was that Ryan was not blinking. He almost decided to go downstairs and call Mrs. Rooney because something seemed wrong, but he suddenly had a flash of memory. It was as if his mind had a buried treasure and he suddenly uncovered it. He remembered several years ago when he and Ryan were both in first grade together. The teacher asked the students who could name their state capital, Dylan knew the answer was Trenton because that’s where his grandma lived, but it was Ryan’s hand that shot up in the air first and it was Ryan who correctly answered the teacher before Dylan’s voice even had time to roll from his tongue.

     He could not stop thinking about the memory. If this were the old West, Ryan’s quick hand would have beat Dylan’s. There was no recovery from defeat, either you are faster than the other man or you are dead. It was so simple.

     So this must mean that Ryan was once not like he is now. He was fast, so he must be faking it. He must be pretending to be slow on purpose. But why would anyone do that? Dylan took this as a challenge. He moved his chair closer to Ryan and he opened his eyes wide and glared into the dark abyss that Ryan now wore over his vision. He was going to have a stare contest.
     For two minutes Dylan managed to keep from blinking, but was getting tired. Ryan didn’t show any signs of fatigue. It was if he wasn’t in his own body. Dylan would not quit however, he would expose Ryan for being a fraud. Water and salt began to liquefy and Dylan’s eyes turned a glossy blue, but he kept looking into Ryan’s eyes, lost and consumed by them. Then he heard a familiar noise, an engine. He heard the distinct sound of a car engine as if it were inside Ryan’s head. As soon as the sound faded he saw what looked like a car speeding into the darkness that Ryan’s eyes held. Immediately Dylan blinked, not because he was giving up but to see if he saw what he thought he saw.

     The water ran down his cheeks and he leaned closer to Ryan looking into him to find the car again. He didn’t see it. So he spread open Ryan’s eyelids to look deeper, intruding his space, but he didn’t care at this point. He knew what he heard and saw, a blue car trapped inside Ryan’s mind. Maybe his obsession with cars was really getting a hold of him. He let Ryan go and stepped back. He couldn’t be going crazy, he had only been there an hour. Three more to go, he thought. If he didn’t find something to entertain him he was sure he would end up like Ryan.

     He walked to the closet in the back of the room and poked his head around inside. His eyes lit up at the sight of it, a dusty red car, sized just for an eight year old. It was one of those battery operated cars, but this one had no battery. This would surely keep him busy for the rest of his visit. There was no limit to an imagination built for speed. He pushed the car out of the closet and faced it toward Ryan so he could keep an eye on him. He still sat there motionlessly. He almost felt bad about giving up on him, but he knew he could not allow himself to end up like him, which is what would have happened if he did not feed his adrenaline rush.
     He opened the door and sat in.

     The car picked up speed and before he knew it he was no longer in Ryan’s room. He was on the road, behind the wheel, and driving super fast. He didn’t know what exactly took place, but he wasn’t afraid. Children do not ask themselves “how” or “why” when their dreams become real; they just live it before it gets taken away from them.

     The red battery car was now a red Ferrari. His hands were now gloved. His mind was now free. An endless road of paved highway layed out in front him and he had it all to himself. He drove until the sun set and rose again topping two hundred miles per hour. A weird feeling came over him a feeling as if he were becoming one with the car.

     There were four things he noticed during his joy riding: there were no doors on the car only windows, his gas gauge always read full, he never felt tired, and he never had the craving for food. He was sure he must be hungry since a day had gone by without eating. He thought about these things for a little while and then forgot them. These were the thoughts that end dreams. So he sped on leaving them behind.

     After a week Dylan had explored the entire territory and there was nowhere else to drive that he had not already been. His speedometer began to lower to one hundred and fifty miles per hour. Suddenly, two cars appeared on each side of his. Both were dark green with red lining. They were models he had never seen before, they resembled miniature cruise ships. A voice spoke through his CB radio.
     “I wouldn’t be doing that if I were you”, said the voice. It was coming from the car on the left.
     Dylan did not notice the radio there before and he was sure he inspected the whole car. He picked up the radio and answered back.
     “Who are you?”
     “My handle is Keebler. And she over there is Delilah.”
     “Call me Deli,” she said through the radio.
     “Where did you come from?” Dylan asked.
     “First things first, what’s your handle?” Keebler asked fervently.
     He was about to say his real name but then realized that a handle was a radio name, something made up. “Speedo”, he said proudly.
     “It’s a pleasure to meet you Speedo”, Deli said. She shook her long red hair at him as a friendly gesture.
     “I’ve been riding through these parts for a week now. I should have run into you earlier. Where did you come from?” Dylan spoke into the radio.
     “This is our speed zone. Think of this world as layers on an onion. You just happened to be at the top layer while we are at a lower layer.” Keebler said. “You have been alone because no one is fast enough to reach that zone.”
     Dylan couldn’t keep the smile off his face. Its not every day he received praises for his driving.
     “No one you say?”
     “You’re bragging kid,” Deli retorted, “You’re speed resembles your youth. A couple years and you’ll be mid zoning like us.”
     “Youth?” Dylan did not like that word. It was as if Deli insulted him indirectly.
     “The younger you are the more passion fuels your vehicle. As you get older that fuel begins depleting,” Keebler’s high voice said. “Which reminds me why we’re here, you had a drastic change in velocity. Did you hit a speed trap?”
     “Speed trap?” Dylan did not understand.
     “Speed traps are set up at every zone, beware of them,” said Deli.
Dylan did not remember hitting anything. It was a desolate road in the fast zone.
     “I slowed down voluntarily,” Dylan said.
     Both Deli and Keebler were shocked. They started speaking all at once into the radio and Dylan could not make out any words.
     “Are you crazy?” Deli shouted. “You don’t ever slow down. That’s the number one rule. You can’t. Or else he will come. And he will challenge. And he will win.”
     “Who will come?” Dylan asked.
     “Blue Blaze. He sets up the speed traps. He has been here so long that his passion is fully depleted and must live in the lowest zone. So he fuels on the passion of others waiting for them to hit a speed trap and enter his layer. You see once you enter another zone you leave open a brief doorway to the zone you were in. That’s how he sets up the speed traps. After he has killed the person and robed them of their fuel he sets up more traps on every level he can get to until all of that passion is run out.” Keebler has been speaking in a low voice as if someone were listening.
     “He is evil, Speedo. You do not want to cross bumpers with him,” Deli added.

     Dylan thought about this Blue Blaze forgetting the dangers of too much thinking. Blue Blaze must have never gotten to the fastest zone because there would have been speed traps there. So from what Dylan can piece together he alone was the fastest person to ever enter this crazy world. That brought great confidence as well as a big ego, something he hadn’t yet learned to control.
     “I will be careful,” Dylan replied to Deli.
     “Good. Its time we are off Deli,” Keebler said.
     “Ay Ay Captain,” Replied Deli.
     Two loud boat horns rocked Dylan’s car from each side and before he could realize he was alone again.

     He thought about going back up to his level but he finally had time to look at the road which was different here from his own. For one it wasn’t as smoothly paved, he found himself swerving around potholes. In the horizon he could see the soft outline of a city. This didn’t exist in his layer and he decided to explore this territory before returning to the highest speed zone.  

     The sun was coming down and he kept his course for the city keeping his speed at 150 miles per hour. He didn’t know exactly how much more or how much less speed would shift layers because as he thought of an onion he remembered the many that existed even within the tiniest one. So he kept his speed constant and continuous.

     He had been driving for days and still not a bit of hunger affected him. What surprised him even more was that he didn’t have to use the bathroom. The strangeness of it all seemed overwhelming to him for a second, but he suddenly remembered that thoughts end dreams. So he kept driving without a thought in his head. That’s when it happened.

     It was dark and he must not have seen it or maybe he did see it but without thinking he simply didn’t register that it was there. His car slammed into a force of wind that had been bundled up in the middle of the street. It was a confined ball that decelerated the car and himself at the same time because he didn’t fly out the windshield. It was as if he was a baseball and he was caught by a huge glove. His speedometer dropped to thirty and suddenly the wind was gone and he was cruising down the same road headed for the same city that seemed to be much closer than he realized.

     He knew what had happened. Speed trap. What did that mean? Was Blue Blaze watching him? He wasn’t afraid. Dylan knew his power in this world and if he was challenged he would accept and he would be victorious. His confidence was about to be challenged.

     Headlights from a car opposite him were turned on down the long stretch of road. Static came across his radio and then a voice.
     “I’ve been waiting,” the voice was dark and echoed sinisterly.
Dylan didn’t respond he tried stepping on his gas pedal but it wouldn’t go above thirty. He noticed his gas gauge had gone down a quarter. He picked up his radio.
     “Blue Blaze I presume,” Dylan was cool and vigilant in his response.
     “Speedo I presume,” the voice reeked out.
     Both cars were coming closer together head on. A couple football fields away he estimated.
     “I accept,” Dylan said before he could be asked.
     “You never had a choice.”
     “How does this work?”
     “We stay straight on this path toward each other. The first person to swerve out of the way loses,” Blue Blaze explained.
     “What are the stakes?”
     “Life or death.”

     Dylan knew that Blue Blaze would not swerve first. He knew the risks of surviving the crash were not in his favor. But he was a risk taker. His decision was made, he would not swerve.

     Both cars were headed straight for each other. Dylan tried to push above thirty but it seemed Blue Blaze controlled this zone and he was coming at him around fifty miles per hour. It was time; Dylan reached his seatbelt and realized that one did not exist. Blue Blaze’s car was now in clear view. It was a mixture of all shades of blue with a shark fin on its hood. He could see Blue Blaze’s face. Time seemed to slow down when he recognized the face of Ryan driving the car. This was a different Ryan, his eyes were alive, his face was intense, and he was speaking clearly. Without thinking Dylan swerved to the right causing a side collision with Ryan’s car. The blue car flipped over the red car exposing sharp metal shards. The metal pierced into the red car and hooked itself in. Dylan’s car had been like a shield deflecting any front end damage and the car suddenly started to speed up. Dylan maneuvered the wheel to keep on the road, but he was now dragging Ryan’s car with him. The car sped up past 100 miles per hour, suddenly the gauge broke and the car was accelerating faster than can be measured. The Blue car accelerated with it.

     Dylan had no control over the car anymore. He was nauseated, his head was bleeding and his body scraped up. Out his driver’s window was Ryan’s car. He could see the face of Blue Blaze, who seemed to be frightened, for control was out of his hands as well. They were headed straight into the city aimed to crash against one of the buildings. Dylan grabbed the radio.
     “Ryan you have to get out. If not were both going to die.”
     “Who are you? How do you know who I am?”
     “Listen to me; I am in your room right now. I am in your car, that’s how I got here. You have to get out of here. You have to get back to your mother.”
     “There is no leaving this place,” Ryan snapped back. “You think I haven’t tried? It consumes you, stay here long enough and it turns you into something you hate. There are no doors; you become one with the car.”

     They were speeding up even more and now they were almost in the city. The building would be there final resting place. All around Dylan could see abandoned cars on the sides of the road. Victims of Ryan or Blue Blaze?
     “Ryan there is a way. Out the window, I can’t climb out I’m stuck to your car. But you can. Kick it open and climb out and you will be home.”
     “We’re going too fast, I’ll be dead if I jump out?”
     “Your mothers tears. I’ve seen them. They will slow you down as you jump out. They are the only thing that can,” Dylan said.

     Suddenly the cars were approaching the building. The next few seconds were a blur to him. There was no time left. He could see Ryan trying to kick open his window, the blood trickled down into his mouth, and he stared face to face with death, his next zone. He closed his eyes right before he crashed into the wall of brick and cement.

     He was screaming when he was pulled out of the car. Blood was covering his face and his mouth and he landed face first into the bland brown rug in Ryan’s room. He did not understand it, but children tend to not ask questions when they cheat death. He shouted for joy and kissed the rug. The blood stain gave the carpet more pizzazz he thought. He then could see two feet standing in front of him. He looked up and saw Ryan holding his hand out. He confidently grabbed it and stood up.
     “Blue Blaze I presume?”
     “Speedo?” The both laughed.
     It was his mother’s tears that had saved Ryan from death that day. They carried him home the moment he jumped out the car window.

     It’s difficult to account for the things that took place that day. But Dylan was considered a hero for rescuing Ryan from the grips of dementia. Later on psychologists would say that it was Ryan’s response to his mother and father’s divorce. Adults were always trying to complicate a perfectly simple situation that they don’t understand. They forget how to use their imaginations and that sometimes children just get trapped in them. Dylan had enough of driving for a while and the boy that would have once traded in his entire childhood to grow up, decided to avoid the speed trap at all costs.



Gravity is a film about weightlessness. On the surface it is about physical weightlessness in the vacuum of space, but in its deepest sense it is a film about the desire for spiritual weightlessness. Too often do we clutter our lives with debris from our anxiety, grief, and fears. Too little do we allow our burdens to drift away from us and very seldom do we “sit back and enjoy the ride” that is our life.

Gravity is a reminder that life detached from God is like trying to live in the ever expanding boundless extent of outer space.   

Gravity is a survival film with a physical and spiritual dimension. On the visual surface, the film follows Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who are victims of a routine spacewalk gone wrong when the debris of a Russian satellite crashes into their space station. Stone becomes the sole survivor faced with the challenge of making it back to earth before she runs out of oxygen or the satellite rubble orbits back around and collides with her.
On the spiritual surface, the film is about the heaviness of Ryan’s soul in the weightless environment of space and her mission from death to rebirth. Stone discusses the traumatic loss of her four year old daughter as the story develops into a purging process for her grief. The film is not only visually immaculate, but spiritually in tune with anyone going through a dark night of the soul (a form of spiritual emptiness).
Right around the time that Gravity was released in theaters I was going through a serious spiritual battle. Early September I was diagnosed with vertigo caused by an inner ear infection. This wasn’t merely the kind of Vertigo that Jimmy Stewart had in the Hitchcock film, but the kind of vertigo that made me feel as if my own gravitational pull had been stripped from me, numbing my limbs and shortening my breath. The kind of vertigo that induced panic attacks in my car on the drive home from work. The kind of vertigo that drifted me further into the abyss of a spiritual drought. It came upon me suddenly one night as I was drinking a glass of water and then a week later as I was praying my daily rosary in my car. My left leg quickly began to go numb. My right hand started tingling as the calcium built up, the beds of my eyes pulsated stars, and a deep warmth ignited in my chest and spread outward. No matter how loud I prayed, I couldn’t fight my body’s urge to black out on the road. I made it home safely, but the effects lasted for months and I found myself engulfed in frustration with God and a fear of praying. So I stopped. I was so traumatized from the panic attack that I negatively associated praying with blacking out. I was angry that I couldn’t sleep properly, exercise normally, and drive without a fear of crashing.

I really wanted to go see Gravity 3D, but with all of this going on it didn’t seem like a good idea to surround myself with a 7,000 square foot IMAX screen and experience the visual sensations of Sandra Bullock having a panic attack in space. It all felt too close to home. Yet, if I had I known that Gravity was going to be one of the best spiritual film I’d ever seen I might have taken the risk, if not solely to help water the withering flower that was my spiritual life at the moment. Like Ryan Stone, I felt detached from my own self and attached to fear.

Attachments and Detachments
Gravity draws heavily on attachments. Immediately after the first satellite crash, Ryan is forced to detach herself from the safety latch which causes her to spin uncontrollably into the black void. She then has to tether herself to Kowalski, who says, “It’s pretty scary shit being untethered up here.” Without gravity’s constancy they severely bump into the ISS (International Space Station) and the zero -gravity drifts them dangerously apart causing Kowalski to make the decision to detach himself from Ryan in a self-sacrificial Christ-like fashion to avoid pulling her with him into the black. “Learn to let go, Say you’re going to make it,” Kowalski coaches her as he slowly drifts away. Later, Stone must detach the parachute of the escape pod from the space station to make it home…. And so on. Every attachment to something is a detachment away from something. Stone’s spiritual attachment was to her daughter’s death and she allowed that to detach her from fully living. “The Glory of God is the human being fully alive.” – St. Irenaus. I was like Stone, attached to fear and detached from God.

The film opens with the text “Life in space is impossible.” In space there is no gravity, no oxygen, no atmosphere… At first it seems liberating, watching George Clooney fly around in the opening scene with his jet pack and the earth as his back drop. Yet very quickly we are shown that without gravity life is dangerous, chaotic, disorganized, and wanders aimlessly without purpose. All of the dangers that are presented in the film are due to the lack of gravity. Zero gravity is the film’s antagonist complicating Stone’s mission back to earth, but it complicates her deeper mission, a mission from death back to life.

In the film, Gravity is God. Gravity draws one closer to life as Christ draws all men to himself. There is a beautiful scene when Ryan Stone believes that surviving is hopeless, she finally gets a radio frequency to work while she is inside the Russian space station. She hears the voice of a man speaking a foreign language, but cannot communicate with him. She then hears a dog barking, a baby crying, and finally the man beginning to sing to a little girl. She listens to the sounds of life soothing her as she decides to try praying for the first time. The father singing to the little girl is like God singing to Ryan. He is calling her again back from earth. There is no life out there in the weightless vacuum of space. Life exists in the weighted earth. Yet it is not the physical weight of Gravity that should bother us but the spiritual weight of our burdens that truly drags us down.  “Come to me all who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest… For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Mt 11:30

In the beginning of the film Ryan Stone mentions that she could get used to the silence of space, mostly because of the noise in her life. Yet even in the silence of space Stone cannot find peace from her grief. While in the Russian space station she begins talking aloud to God and says she was never taught how to pray. In her darkest moment she discovers real silence, “silence” of the heart. She thought she was talking to herself, but God, who listens in silence, sent her a redeemer and she prayed for the first time in her life.

Once she gets to the space station there is a beautiful shot of her in a fetal position as if she were in a womb awaiting her rebirth. The Russian ship however runs out of gas before she can make it to the Chinese stations escape pod. She loses all hope. Giving up, she shuts off the oxygen to drift off to a peaceful death. Her redeemer, Kowalski, appears to her again like the resurrected Christ. His words fill her with purpose and he gives her the escape plan.  

“You can shut down all the systems, turn out all the lights and tune out everyone. What’s the point of living? It’s a matter of what you do now. Sit back enjoy the ride. Start living life. It’s time to go home.” She refutes him saying that she is out of gas, but he tells her to engage the landing process. Landing is launching. In other words, every end is always a beginning.

With one simple choice, her eyes open and she awakens a new woman. Her pessimistic attitude transforms as she speaks to Kowalski’s spirit. “I’m not quitting,” she tells him. You can see the true weight being lifted off of her and she becomes lighter than she has ever been. She speaks to her daughter and let’s go of her grief. She starts the landing gear and launches herself aboard the Chinese station where it takes her home. As the pod enters the atmosphere it begins to burn in high heat, like a spiritual purging, a shedding of her former self that leads her to life.

The pod impacts in the water and she finds herself submerged. She opens the hatch to escape and the water floods the inside of the pod. She swims out and emerges from the water like Christ after his baptism.  The film’s audio changes from the empty radio voicing of space to a full surround sound audio of the sounds of life, buzzing flies, splashing water, and gusts of wind. We see the green grass and dirt of the earth. Life is here. She’s like a newborn as she crawls out of the water onto the earth. Her hands press into the muddy clay. She struggles to get up as she now feels the weight of gravity. Gravity is always there tugging at us, but it is a necessary weight that orients us in the proper direction of our lives. Yet, even the weight that Stone feels as she struggles to stand up, she feels the weightlessness of her soul. The glory of God is man fully alive. Ryan Stone has been reborn.

When we try and escape Him in the silence of the cosmological “Heavens” we find a closer connection to Him on earth and in our hearts where life abounds. Jesus said “The kingdom of Heaven is upon you.” We don’t have to leave Earth to get closer to God. We need only walk a few steps and meet the neighbors or look into the eyes of our children, friends, and strangers. God is there. I allowed my illness to detach me from my gravitational connection to God. I was living without Gravity surrounded by fear and spiritual asphyxiation. God proves that even in the darkest times, life is always beckoning, especially in the hopelessness, despair, and frustrating spiritual battles.
Despite my spiritual darkness, a new light was born in my life, my daughter Imma Bernadette. She was conceived during the highest peak of my vertigo and after her birth this summer my dizziness has disappeared. I have never felt more alive. Even though my responsibilities now weigh more, I am liberated through a newfound spiritual weightlessness.

It took me quite a while to sit down and watch Gravity, but I am so glad that I did because it rekindled a flame in me that was put out for far too long. 
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