Why is it so easy to forget these three words? Why is it so easy to let the idiocy of routine, business, and disappointment get in the way of this most simple directive?

Joseph Campbell got it. I want to get it, and most days I think I do. But it’s so easy to get distracted. Every day, every moment, is a precious miracle that will never be repeated. Don’t squander it! Follow your bliss. Embrace it and don’t ever let it get away.

OK, I feel better now.

Here’s something amazing.

Hold a ten pound rock in one hand, a five pound rock in the other. Drop them from the same height at the same time. They fall at the same rate and hit the ground at the same moment.

This is a routine, everyday event, something our science teachers treat as some sort of self-evident truth. It’s what Galileo showed us, right? What’s the big deal?

But this routine, everyday event is filled with wonder.

Consider: if you kick a five pound rock and a ten pound rock with the same force, you expect the five pound rock to move a lot more than the ten pound rock.

(You also expect a sore toe.)

But if you drop those same two rocks (not on your toe!), they fall at the same rate. It’s almost as if the Earth “knows” that it has to pull harder on the heavier rock.

Why this should be so is not at all obvious.

Here’s the explanation. There are two different kinds of mass. They are called “inertial mass” and “gravitational mass.” Inertial mass is what you feel when you kick a rock with your toe. The rock doesn’t want to move. You have to apply force to overcome its inertia. Gravitational mass is what you measure when you put the two rocks on a balance. Gravity pulls harder on the heavier rock, causing it to pull down its side of the balance.

Here’s the wonder. Gravitational mass and inertial mass are always (for every case we’ve ever measured) exactly the same. As a result, all objects fall at the same rate.

But why should inertial mass and gravitational mass be the same? There’s no particular reason they should be, as far as we can see. And yet they are. Asking this question led Albert Einstein to his greatest theory, perhaps the greatest theory ever devised by a single human mind: the General Theory of Relativity.

And yet the wonder of this theory is available to us all, through dropping two rocks and thinking about what you see.

And that, that wonder that catches your breath and makes your stomach jump like you’ve swallowed an otter, is called following your bliss.

Advertisements