For starters, a black hole is not actually a hole at all. It is an object that has basically collapsed in on itself, having gravitational force so great that neither light nor any other objects can escape its pull. It erases the properties of the objects it swallows and can violently merge with other black holes.1 Black holes are the densest, most massive singular objects in the universe. They are complex, semi-undetectable, and completely mysterious…
And I believe I am in one right now.
Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s new apocalyptic space exploration film, has got my mind rolling. Cotton-mouth inducing sand storms, mysterious dimension-warped bookcases, and one very creepy Matt Damon all combined to get my imaginative juices flowing. While not giving away too much of the plot, it is important to know that the movie touches on interplanetary travel and black hole exploration. The protagonist Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, is an ex-aviator-astronaut turned corn husker who ventures into the unknown depths of the universe. Their journey takes them to three planets, one of which is close to the ergosphere, or gravitational ring, of a spinning black hole. This is where I will leave their journey and go off on one of my own.
Rotating, or spinning, black holes have two event horizons, which are basically the “point of no return”. They represent a region of space that is the boundary of the black hole in the sense that after this point, because the escape velocity would have to be faster than light, nothing can escape its dark clutches. And at its center there exists a singularity, the only physical aspect of a black hole.
Here’s the interesting part. In a Reissner-Nordstrom black hole, there exist two event horizons. The outer event horizon is a boundary where time and space flip, where the singularity, (i.e. the center) is no longer a point in space, but a point in time. The inner event horizon flips space-time back to normal.2 Confused? Basically, if someone were to watch you enter a black hole, at a certain point you would look frozen in time, no matter how long ago you had passed the event horizon. Now, of course, because of the gravitational pull, you would have been stretched like Auntie Anne’s pretzel dough, causing quite fatal effects, but your fellow cosmonauts would not have experienced such a grizzly show. They would see you frozen… right there… in space… and time.
What does any of this have to do with marriage, you might ask?
Whatever your beliefs about marriage, we can all agree that it is a joining of sorts. For some it’s simply a combining of discolored couches. To others a joining of bank accounts. Still others, marriage is a joining of two bodies or spirits. But whichever way you like it, something’s getting together. Marriage is a force so powerful it can build nations or destroy families. It reaches out and pulls millions of people throughout our known galaxy toward one another. Some, myself included, see this complex, semi-undetectable, and mysterious matrimony as a joyous and awe-inspiring wonder. Others however, would have us do away the institution altogether, most likely leaving a dark void of nothingness in it’s stead. In all reality, such a force is quite intimidating.
Just the thought of how two people can be inexplicably pulled towards each other by an unseen force can frighten many people away. To pass through the event horizon of a relationship and truly believe there’s no return, it makes some travel light years around entire galaxies to avoid such encounters. Many would see marriage as they see a black hole. They believe that entering into the singularity that marriage tugs us means erasing all the complex properties we had beforehand. It would mean leaving the positive and negative charges of our previous selves and becoming depolarized in the process. Scary stuff.
But what if, as Christopher Nolan toys with in Interstellar, the black hole we think will tear us apart will actually lead us to what we were meant to be all along. What if marriage was not something to be avoided because of the dangers it poses to our own physical make-up, but something to be longed for because it would stretch us in ways we had never imagined. Ways uncomfortable beyond belief but beneficial beyond comparison.
And imagine that we don’t know everything there is about marriage. I certainly didn’t before going in, and we certainly don’t know now that we’ve passed our own event horizon. Marriage is complex and we learn more about it every day. But just as the cosmonauts would see you frozen in space and time despite your journey into the great unknown, that is how marriage is seen by those on the outside. They don’t see the stretching and pulling and re-shaping. They don’t see the changes that marriage forces upon us. They can’t witness who we’ve become because their eyes are on a frozen image of the past; an image set long ago which no longer exists in time and space. Marriage wrenches you from one reality and thrusts you into another. It throws you into a singularity with another person with no care for who you were previously. There are moments when we have to decide whether to cross over our own event horizons and pass the point of no return.
Now, I understand these are some heavy topics to tackle. But whether black holes or marriage, they are worth it, so tackle away. If you need some inspiration to continue pondering, go see Interstellar. But if you need a wife, mine’s taken, sorry, find your own black hole.