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 on-line 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 encourage you to watch each one all the way through. I’ve seen them what seems like a hundred times by now, yet I’m still inspired and moved, getting all teary-eyed like the sensitive sap I am.)
“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 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, https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/what-is-dark-energy, Sept. 15, 2017.