What is the center of your solar system?

June 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

If your life is a solar system, what is your sun? Around what do you orbit? What is the source of your light? Your energy? Your vision? Your warmth? What keeps you in a stable gravitational pull so that you don’t go skipping off into the atmosphere and beyond?

Photo by Matt Emerson

Photo by Matt Emerson

I ask these questions to my students, and I think they are worth considering again in light of yesterday’s post about the orange Range Rover, which was really a way to consider how to desire the right things in the right way, how to stay connected to the deepest sources of our thriving. The solar system metaphor offers another avenue to the same questions.

Discussions growing from the metaphor are usually very revealing, due in large part (I believe) to its visual richness. By high school, all students know the basics of the solar system and the sun’s preeminent role. It’s a helpful framework, an imaginative way for them to assess the orientation of all their activities.

In the wake of the questions, some students admit that they themselves are the center of their solar systems. One student said, “Me, I orbit around me. Everything I do concerns my life.” One sophomore, without hesitation, said it was volleyball. Others said homework. Some said friends; others, family. Others had no idea. They needed time to think.

They are always surprised when I ask them where God fits in. In your mental framework, is God orbiting around you, or are you orbiting around God? Are you letting God’s light power everything you do, or are you trying to work without him, under the cover of darkness?

Using this metaphor can be unsettling. Some have never even thought this way, never thought intentionally and carefully about who or what should receive their attention and time. I tell my students that all of us are tempted to drift into empty space, pulled in by whatever gravitational forces are near, whether it’s work, family, friends, our appearance or material things.

All of us, no matter our age, must ask whether we’re treating God like Neptune. Sometimes we just have to step away from our own preoccupations and ask, “What is the center of my solar system?”

Posted by Matt Emerson.




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