Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Into the Unknown

When you grow up with an omniscient heavenly father and a book which is said to have all the answers to life, the universe, and everything, "I don't know" can be a tough concept. The Christian community likes answers. Now, I'll grant you, that doesn't mean ALL Christians -- I have met a handful of intelligent and thoughtful Christians who live very happily far outside the box, and if I ever return to faith I hope I turn out like them. But for your rank and file Bible-believing church member, it is very uncomfortable to admit that there's anything we don't know.

I have sat on a padded chair on a Sunday night and listened to far more "creation science" presentations than I care to think about. I grew up with the six thousand year universe age, the "appearance of age" theory, the missing link problems, the fanciful artwork of how things might have been when dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together, the whole nine yards. Then I grew up and read a respectful approach to theistic evolution, and was tempted to buy into it wholesale. After a few years of thought, I came up with a better answer: I don't know.

I have spent many years wrestling with the problem of evil in the world, as far greater minds than mine have done, and with comparable lack of success. I've seen all manner of answers to the question, some cynical and bitter, some wrapped in glowing faith, and none of them convincing. I am coming to a new conclusion on the matter: I don't know.

My son is autistic. I don't know why. He had his vaccinations, and according to the more rabid members of the local autism support network, maybe that's why. My grandmother almost certainly has Asperger's Syndrome, so maybe that's why. Maybe it was a special blessing from God, although I sure as hell hope not or he's got some explaining to do. Maybe it was just the luck of the draw. This would infuriate the women in the autism groups who march and rally and evangelize about every new therapy and potential cause that comes down the pike, but I'm starting to be OK with my answer: I don't know.

It doesn't mean I don't care, about these issues or countless others that could have the same final answer. Your view of the reason (or lack thereof) for man's existence affects how you see humanity, morality, and our responsibility to the environment, far more than most of us are willing to consciously consider. I will probably never be fully comfortable with the co-existence of the beauty of our universe and the creeping death that is built, apparently intrinsically, into its very being. My son's autism will be a part of my life for as long as I live, and I care passionately about him and his future.

But I am seeking some kind of peace with not knowing the answers. So many are unknowable in the first place, and asking the same questions over and over achieves nothing but frustration. On the flip side, though, if I can accept that any given question might not have an answer, I might be a little braver about asking the questions. For too many years, I have shied away from asking questions where I didn't have a pretty good guess at the answer, and that's no way to think.

One of those thinking people used to exasperate me with his catch phrase, "Enjoy the ambiguity." Enjoy it? I'm not sure about that. But grow accustomed to it, find peace with it, find freedom in the new questions it raises ... that, maybe I can live with.

I don't know.

I'm OK with that.


Little Bald Bastard said...

Hey, IB. I just wanted to express my solidarity. I was raised in the church too, although mine was Methodist, which is sort of the unsalted cracker of Protestantism. I had my own fall away from faith, and I imagine that it must a lot more difficult when you're coming from what sounds like a pretty fundamentalist background.

It sounds like you're wrestling with a lot of the same things that I did, albeit a lot more thoughtfully and articulately. You're not alone out here, and I hope you'll continue to share reflections on your journey.

Improbable Bee said...

lbb, thank you with all my heart. It's good to know that these are being seen, and that I'm not alone in the universe -- I know, that was unspeakably trite, but sometimes the trite phrases become so because they say exactly what all of us feel now and then.

I appreciate the encouragement, and while real life has interfered with my blogging over the last few days, I will continue to post. Thank you again.