It Moves, Therefore It Is

“It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another … and this everyone understands to be God.” —St. Thomas Aquinas

Star Trails
Star Trails (photo: Pexels / Pixabay / CC0)

It is 5 a.m. I lie asleep in bed and all is still. Yet is it really still?

All around me, the universe is expanding at a speed so astonishing that it’s difficult to calculate. Deep in the cosmos, the Milky Way Galaxy spins nearly 170 miles per second, taking 200 million years to complete one rotation. Meanwhile, the sun is orbiting around the center of the galaxy at a speed of more than 500,000 miles per hour, taking nearly 230 million years to make one complete rotation. Here on earth (at the equator), we are spinning at nearly 1,000 miles per hour, completing a full rotation every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds (give or take). As the earth spins, its full orbit around the sun takes 365 day, 5 hours, 59 minutes and 16 seconds, moving at a speed of roughly 67,000 miles per hour.

Outside, the winds are rustling. A few miles away, the Ohio River slowly continues its 981 mile journey from the Allegany and Monongahela rivers in Pittsburgh to the mighty Mississippi in Cairo, Illinois. Tributaries from tiny brooks to large creeks, like the one (Pigeon Creek) a mile from my home, feed into this timeless waterway. Just north of our bedroom window, the sinewy, gnarly Southern Catalpa stands majestically over the burning bushes below. Beneath its bark, water is flowing upward from the roots, varying its absorption rate at different times of year. As the water reaches the branches and the leaves, the tree transpires (gives off) water into the air; its large oak cousin can transpire 40,000 gallons per year. 

Underground, worms and various creatures are constantly shaping and nourishing the soil. In a single acre of land, a million worms may be moving at anywhere from a few centimeters to many meters in an hour. Water is continuously draining through the land, while some of it evaporates into the sky after last night’s rain shower; depending on the location, water can evaporate at the rate of 30 to 120 inches per year. Even deeper below the surface, around on average of 5 miles underground, magma churns constantly, ever so rarely exploding above ground as lava. 

Even the concrete in our driveway is not motionless as it may seem. Like all matter, including bones of our deceased beloved, it runs on an atomic clock. Deep into the atomic channels, the electrons circle the nucleus at a rate of 7.8 million kilometers per hour. At this rate, they could circumnavigate the globe in a little more than 18 seconds. Hidden electromagnetic fields fill the air, from radio waves to infrared waves to ultraviolet waves, interacting with other currents and charges. As the sun slowly starts to rise 93 million miles away, its light moving at a speed of 186,282 miles per second, the rays take nearly 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach my window, where I begin to stir as my body temperature has slowly risen its nightly nadir. 

Lying in bed, with a heart rate near 50 beats per minute, and upwards of 3 billion beats in an average lifetime, I start to rise. Signaling my legs to move, nerve fibers from the brain to my legs transmit the message at around 250 miles an hour (taking about 20 milliseconds to reach their target). Neurons connected to the spinal column and linked to my muscles move at a similar speed. Even the hair on my head doesn’t stay still, growing at a rate of 0.3 to 0.4 millimeters a day. 

Awakened from my slumber, I arise and get dressed and walk downstairs. Sound from my feet tapping the stairs reverberates around the dining room, at 740 miles per hour. As the sun begins its ascent for the day, the skies lighten in the east. It is a cool, crisp 29 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind freshens from the northwest. I take off on my bike, coasting down Stringtown Hill to Pigeon Creek at 30 miles per hour, only to settle in at a comfortable speed just under 20 miles an hour once I reach the flatlands. Around me, people are awakening to another morning. Hidden beneath the stillness is a universe that never stops moving, seemingly beckoning us to be a part of this constant, rhythmic dance. 

Yet, does our will align with the inherent Wisdom that has created a cosmos in motion?

Even the language we speak echoes of an existence mired in movement, a society programmed for activity. Consider what it means when we are an impasse, at a standstill, going nowhere, stalled, stuck and altogether not budging. A lack of movement has forever been associated with conflict, stagnation and demise. Yet when it comes to the language of resolution and hope, we are moving forward, moving on, taking steps, going somewhere (anywhere), getting past and putting behind that which hampers and prevents us from growing, progressing and living as we should. 

Somewhere in the smallest quark, everywhere in the vast universe, all is in motion as God’s design would have it. Almost all of it moves without our knowledge and sanctioning and sentience. Only as beings do we have a choice in our movement — the rest of the cosmos goes as the hidden forces will be. 

Just what will our movement be?

As part of Jewish-Christian dialogue, a joint concert was given on Sept. 4, 2021, in the Dohány Street Synagogue by the Solti Chamber Orchestra in Budapest. Hungary.

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