Over the last twelve years scientists have been studying a strange affliction that plagues astronauts who spend long periods in space.
It all began when astronaut John Phillips was peering out the window of the International Space Station in 2005. His vision had always been perfect. But now, midway through his tour on the huge spacecraft, the earth appeared blurry and had trouble focusing. Phillips didn’t report the matter to ground control because he believed it might have been due to fatigue. But it only got worse. By the time Phillips returned to earth he discovered his vision had deteriorated from 20/20 to 20/100. Over the next six months his eyesight improved to 20/50, but that’s as good as it got.
What was John’s problem? Doctors eventually termed his malady as Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure Syndrome (VIIP). It’s caused by a lack of gravity – by weightlessness, by the fun-filled environment of zero-gravity. Because of the absence of gravity’s continual pull, blood in the body is not pulled downward toward the feet and pressure builds up inside the cranium. As this continues the base of the eyeball becomes flattened from the intracranial pressure and eyesight is permanently impaired. Studies have revealed that VIIP afflicts 80% of astronauts who endure extended periods in space – all of them men. Naturally, VIIP presents a significant problem to any plans for interplanetary space travel.
Strange. Although many view space travel as humankind’s triumph over gravity, it seems that zero-gravity is not a friendly environment. Our rockets exert millions of pounds of thrust to escape earth’s gravity. Yet now we realize how much we need gravity’s continual pull upon our bodies. Astronauts have tried to counter the ill-effects of zero-gravity – by performing strenuous exercises in space. But some ill-effects, like VIIP, cannot be avoided.
The pull of gravity is like the pull of responsibility. It weighs us down and we often yearn to be free of it. Yet responsibility is essential for our mental and emotional health. Lives free of responsibility are lives of zero-growth and poor health. Though most people dream of the day they can retire and live lives of leisure, the sudden absence of responsibility can be unnerving and disorienting. Any study of suicide statistics demonstrates that suicide rates among men skyrocket between the ages of 65 and 85 – the very time when they’re supposed to be enjoying life after retirement.
Are you saddled with the responsibilities of family, work, and your duty to God? Don’t be too eager to escape them. Those responsibilities are your friends. Their downward pull helps maintain your mental and emotional wellbeing.
In the Bible Jesus told us that in order to find rest, we must come to Him and allow Him to place His “yoke” upon us (Matthew 11:28-29). That sounds like work and servitude. It is. But Christ explains that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And by bearing them we will find rest for our souls. It’s like so many other counter-intuitive decisions Christ calls us to make. According to Jesus we receive as we give (Luke 6:38). We gain by losing (Mark 8:35-37). We find rest by laboring for Him (Matthew 1:28-30). We conquer hatred by loving and forgiving others (Romans 12:17-21). And when we die to self we are born anew to eternal life (Matthew 16:24; John 3:3-8; Romans 6:4-6).
Don’t fight your circumstances or yearn to cast off your God-given responsibilities. Turn to God for strength and grace to bear them. Submit to Him and you will find rest. Cast your care upon Him and you will experience His peace.
Dear Father in heaven, into Your capable and loving hands I commit myself, my burdens, and all that concerns me. May Your holy will be done in my life and may I be found faithful in all my God-given tasks. Amen.
(Information from: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/the-mysterious-condition-impairing-astronauts-eyesight.html; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_impairment_due_to_intracranial_pressure)