“Why” is a very useful word. It opens many doors in the mind and it’s easy to spell so there’s another benefit. First, though tends to come “When”. “When can we go out to play, have a cake, arrive at grannies , get my new toy “etc. . Finally the toy arrives and the child pounces on it with eager anticipation, playing with it feverishly before dropping it as the wind of curiosity takes her mind in another direction. Her parents are nonplussed. Why, they say, did she play with it for such a short time and then drop it. It is an adult question. The child is already somewhere else playing in another situation.
Later come the first of the Why questions, “Why do elephants have trunks” or some other practical question formed on a whimsy of curiosity. These early questions are normally easy to answer either with, “lets look it up on Google” or the correct answer if you know it already.Later the questions become more obscure. “Why do angels have wings” I was once asked. “So they don’t fall off the clouds” I answered and my daughter nodded solemnly as she digested this information. If you’re lucky it stops there but sometimes they will continue probing with “Why do they sit on clouds” . The child is just seeking to acquire some certainty about a question which perplexed her. We don’t have the answers to this or many questions not posed in a car maintenance manual but luckily her attention is soon drawn away by some other event and she lets us off the hook.
For us the question remains. Why do they sit on clouds, are there any angels, are there any certainties apart from death and taxes. I have no idea. All I do know is that life spans out in many shapes and situations and the common theme of them all is that they examine our characters. Will we bend or break.Will loyalty triumph over self preservation. Will I have the patience to think long-term when I want so many things now and hang the consequences.
Such is the lack of certainty in this modern world over the nature of faith, family and employment that we are all threatened by a deep sea of doubt. Sometimes we try the car manual approach and sit there reading “Six easy steps to Success” or “Cooking made Simple” and if the skill is small enough there is an excellent chance of us mastering it and feeling the better for it. Then comes the deeper questions. Sometimes one sex questions the value of the other thinking that moral worth and weakness are more likely to reside in one or other of the sexes rather than both. It’s part of blaming others for not coping with ourselves. For most of us, now living in a world of fewer certainties than existed when we worked closer to the land, this uncertainty about the nature of life and our place in it runs as an implicit query in many conversations. Lets be honest, I don’t have the answer to these questions either, and nor do you. What I do know is that, in the glance of an eye or a smile across a table we are not alone in this mystery.
Often we shake our heads at the antics of those around us, ignoring our own . We swim in a sea of doubt. Sometimes it can get rough and we feel ourselves drowning and unable to cope. It is the smile or the glance of an eye which helps us. I have no answer to whats going on, I am a simple man made complex by curiosity. I do know that, in the sharing of it, the burden becomes easier to deal with and sometimes, and for no reason at all. the sun will come up and thank us for our perseverance.
I don’t have any answers but I do have observations. Most of them relate to the courage and wisdom of those who have seen things through, and the promise of those yet to experience them. The power that forgiving others brings to accepting our own failures. The blessing to be had when the noise of the world around us falls away and a sense of peace and understanding unattached to the moment settles on our spirits. Sometimes when the horrors within ourselves or between people or nations reach boiling point I think of the line from a poem. “We must love one another or die”. It is something I remember every day.