Friday, September 19, 2008


Tethered as I am to the solid ground, compelled to locomote by placing one foot in front of the other and by each foot making contact with the solid ground, and given that yesterday and today one of those feet (and its attached knee) was cramping and objecting strenuously to its usage, and given that yesterday was the feast of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, levitation was very much on my mind.
I would not mind levitating, even a tiny bit.
I have never levitated, not an inch, nor have I ever seen anyone levitate and I am not sure I can believe levitation is possible. But Joseph of Cupertino was said to have levitated hundreds of times, and was seen by so many people, and documented by so many others, that I have to wonder.

Levitation is defined as the rising of a human body off the ground, in apparent defiance of the law of gravity. But let’s not stop there. According to Wikipedia: “For levitation on Earth, first, a force is required directed vertically upwards and equal to the gravitational force, second, for any small displacement of the levitating object, a returning force should appear to stabilize it. The stable levitation can be naturally achieved by, for example magnetic or aerodynamic forces.”

By means of aerodynamic forces, the effect of levitation can also be achieved using the upthrust of air, with the levitating object having the same average density as air.

Without being too simplistic, is it not miraculous that planes stay aloft and hurtle us through space? In my dreams, I occasionally fly and I do it rather well: I have this way of riding the upthrust of air that feels perfectly natural. Then I wake up.

So we return to Joseph. He was born posthumous, in 1603, in a stable or a shed, or another humble place, depending on your source. He was an odd, clumsy child, absent-minded in the extreme, and possibly dim. He could barely read or write. Through a bureaucratic glitch he was actually ordained in 1628, and from there on in, so says Butler’s, his “life was one long succession of ecstasies.” Which is more than most of us can say. There are seventy recorded occasions of his levitating. Once he “flew” seventy yards carrying a cross.

There are more than 200 saints of whom it is written they levitated, but Joseph is the most prolific. It is generally regarded as a mark of God’s favor, a move in the heavenly direction. But it can be disconcerting.

I don’t know what I would do if I saw someone levitating, flying into the air to kiss a statue of Baby Jesus, as Joseph did. I would not be indifferent.
“There he goes again.”

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