Comfort – Dark Matter and the Light of Stars

Albert Einstein theorized that the dark, empty space of the universe is not “nothing,” that empty space may, in fact, possess its own energy. Scientists have called the “something” of empty space “dark matter” and called its energy “dark energy.” And although they still question and explore the nature of space as it relates to the expansion of the universe since the Big Bang, they’ve used observations and calculations to arrive at an approximate and theoretical model of composition of the universe:  68% dark energy, 27% dark matter, and 5% normal visible matter (stars, planets, us, and everything we can see).

This fits with what I see in my skies at night. The skies I see are mostly dark space flecked with occasional stars and planets. The stars are brilliant and beautiful, yes, but separated by oh, so much darkness, with only a small amount of what one might consider the light of “normal matter.”

When my son was born, I dreamed what our life would be like, what his future would hold.

I never thought my husband and I would be taking a PMT class to learn the proper ways to restrain my son so he won’t hurt himself or others during a meltdown.

I never thought we’d be shopping online for a helmet to protect his head from self-injurious behaviors.

I never thought I’d wear long sleeves no matter the weather to cover scratches, bruises, and bite marks.

I never thought we’d talk in hushed voices over dinner about the possibility of a residential home if he got too big for us to handle.

Our life has drifted so far from what would be considered “normal matter” that for months I’ve been too distracted by dark matter, too overwhelmed with dark energy, too consumed by the blackness of an endless void of fear and anger and guilt, of helplessness and hopelessness, to bother to look for the light of stars.

“I can’t believe this is my life,” I find myself saying. “I can’t believe this is our life.”

I can’t believe this is his life.

Yet my son, the one who is suffering the most – from sensory integration problems we don’t understand, from painful, crippling anxiety, from overwhelming frustration at his inability to communicate – he is still searching for and finding stars every day.

Over the past few months, my husband and I have introduced our son to YouTube videos of different kinds of music and dance – from classical to contemporary. Many videos he is not interested in. Others he watches over and over and over again – silently, intently, occasionally bouncing or rocking during a favorite part.

It never ceases to amaze me, his choices of videos. He is unaware and uninfluenced by what typical 8-year-olds are supposed to like, and although many of his choices are simple children’s songs, sometimes his choices are timeless and profound, showing a wisdom and sophistication beyond his years.

He finds what speaks to him, what comforts him. He finds his own stars.

And like stars, sometimes they stand alone, but other times they appear to form a pattern, a constellation through which stories or messages can be conveyed.

For several weeks recently, my son watched these four videos again and again, and they do, indeed, seem to create a constellation. (I’ve had technical difficulties imbedding the link for one video, “The USAF Band Holiday Flash Mob at the National Air and Space Museum 2013, a medley of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Joy to the World.” Worth watching on YouTube!)

“Ode to Joy/Ode an die Freude,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Joy to the World,” “Happy”…

Yes, it’s a constellation of happiness, but it’s really more than that. These songs are jubilant, triumphant, victorious celebrations…defiant declarations of joy.

Keeping in mind the fact that my son is nonverbal and has limited understanding of the English language (no less a foreign language), clearly it’s not the words but something about the music and the instruments, the singing and the dancing, something that breaks through the confused messages of his disorganized neurons to bring him calming comfort.

To bring him happiness.

For him, music is like those powerful, burning spheres of hydrogen and helium, the light from which travels light years through darkness to shine as stars in our night sky.

I’ll admit I haven’t looked for stars lately because, quite frankly, I don’t want to.

I’m angry.

I don’t want to be comforted. I want things to be different.  For now I’m content to stand in the maelstrom of our personal Pandora’s box, screaming expletives into the wind.

My boy is the keeper of the little light in the bottom of that box.

His behavior during intense meltdowns is not who he is.

He is an intelligent, complex, and deeply sensitive child.

He is a hero who defies the darkness.

He is a seeker of stars.

He finds comfort in their light and shares it with me.

“Dark Energy, Dark Matter”, NASA,, Sept. 15, 2017.

8 thoughts on “Comfort – Dark Matter and the Light of Stars

  1. Jen,

    I’ve been thinking of you often, very often. And your new post was especially timely. My daughter is an OT working with students with severe autism. (K-5, and some medically fragile at home) She spends a great deal of time on weekends and evenings talking to parents. I sent this to her to help her understand how parents really feel although they rarely tell her. Your writing has a far reaching impact. I wanted you to know and to thank you for sharing as only you can.

    I hope you are doing okay. And I love the photo you closed your essay with.

    ❤️ Kate

    Sent from my iPad

    1. Thank you so much, Kate. I think it’s wonderful that your daughter is working with children with special needs like severe autism and their families. Not everyone can do what she’s doing, and we need more people like her!!
      I’m hanging in there – We’re trying some new things that seem promising, and I’m excited to explore his love of music. I’ll probably write more posts about his video choices, which continue to inspire me. He’s a pretty amazing little boy!! 🙂
      Miss you, Kate! Let’s plan for coffee again soon!

  2. Your honesty and the beauty with which you express yourself leaves me in awe. This blog is so helpful. It is a gift to everyone struggling with so many of these issues and to the rest of the universe too. Everyone needs to better understand everyone else and you are helping to do just that.

  3. Jen…you need to look beyond the stars…it’s in the firmament, a place where you will
    find a key that will open the doors to all the answers you seek!

  4. I love that last photo.
    I am a lover of flash mobs, always have been. Last month a blogger shared maybe 15 of them in a playlist, and since then, it’s been a highlight to watch one early in the day. I don’t know that we can understand how everyone else processes things, but for me, they’re filled with hope and joy and connection — maybe he can feel that.
    And well, Happy is truly the happiest song ever, is it not?

    Fabulous metaphors here, rich with truth.
    Great post. Best wishes, always.

    1. Thank you, Joey!! “Happy” really is the happiest song AND happiest video! My son loves all the people dancing. (He also loves Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” video, but that’s a story for another post, lol!)
      I agree with you – there is something about flash mobs. I can sense it, too, when I watch them. In fact, when I was writing this post, I kept thinking of “humanity” and “connection”…starting with a single person and gradually building to something beautifully powerful. My son has gotten interested in a few other flash mob videos, as well as “Playing for Change” videos that join together voices and instruments from around the world. (That’s the subject of my next post.) You should check them out!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.