At dinner last night, one of my 5-year old sons asked why the world is like it is. He does not travel lightly on the earth as some of his age-mates do. Everything he sees or touches matters deeply to him. Everything he understands yields more questions. Always into a deeper excavation of the underlying why?
The never-ending Why? without hope of answer, the why that digs deep, into the most extreme understandings of the nature of the universe through scientific study; the most ancient and profound studies of the human predicament through meditation and religious questioning; and the rigorous analysis of philosophy. This is the world the gifted soul touches.
In a rational, multi-cultural, secular world where the answers, “because my parents did it that way” and “because God made it so” are not accepted as definitive, we mortals are left to our own devices.
If we are not to sink into existential depression, we must choose to create meaning and purpose to sustain us despite the unanswerable questions that our human nature compels us to ask.
Why? is a hugely valuable question in the practical world. By examining how things came to be and why things are as they are, we can more effectively predict what other things will occur or how things will behave. But, the ability to look beyond the surface can take us too close to the abyss.
To create a sense of meaning and purpose is to choose in the moment that this moment will have meaning. Sources of meaning are personal but often involve beauty, justice, joy, human connections, or service to others or to a principle.
Because we can choose the sources of meaning in our lives, we may also find ourselves doubting our choices, wondering if there was sufficient reason for that choice over the myriad of other options that we had.
Back and forth, we dance, connecting to sources of meaning that fulfill and satisfy us and then falling back into the questions.
I assume that I am not alone in sometimes wishing I could accept an easy answer, but it is not in my nature to do so. The inner Why? that haunts me is too powerful, too consistent.
But, as long as I can hold the question lightly and show up to hug my family and connect to the activities that hold meaning for me: making art and helping others find their own truest stories, I can dance.
And that is enough.
It has to be.
Kate writes about creativity and story-telling as tools for making sense of the world at www.katearmsroberts.com.