Friday, 18 June 2010

reality and unanswerable questions

As she was drawing the other day, Iris idly asked me “why are we real?” It seemed unfair to ask a three-and-a-half year old to define reality, but I did ascertain that she meant “real” as opposed to dolls and toys. I suppose I could have explained that dolls and toys are real – real plastic and wood and so on, but the difference is that we are living sentient beings. However I didn’t think of it at the time because I accepted that her question was really the more philosophical question – why am I me? It took me straight back to my own childhood wonder at the fact that I was me rather than someone else and to my later questioning of the fact that I had been fortunate to be born in the relatively well off UK as opposed to, say, a poverty-stricken warzone. These are the questions that lead to “who made God?” or “what came before the Big Bang?” I’m afraid I ducked the discussion that we could have had by saying that I didn’t think that any of us really know the answer. Thinking about it since I think my answer was true, if maybe a little unhelpful to a child trying to make sense of her world. Indeed I’m just embarking on a book by Richard Holloway (formerly Bishop of Edinburgh – now largely faithless) Looking in the Distance which explores these very questions. Maybe I’ll be better equipped for the discussion next time!
the photo is one I took on my recent retreat in Devon

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