Is there an ultimate “why?”

If you have kids, or have known or worked with young children, you know they all go through a “Why?” phase. Every question, no matter how simple or direct the answer, leads to another, “Why?”

“It’s time to get your shoes on, honey.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re going out.”

“Why?”

“We’re having dinner with Grandma.”

“Why?”

At which point you have three choices:

  1. Explain why the familial, generational bonds require support over time in order to maintain health;
  2. Explain the need for biological organisms to ingest material that can be converted, via oxygenation, into energy;
  3. Assume that the “Why?” game is a delaying tactic and jump over it with something like, “Because I said so,” or “I’ll explain later.”

If you’ve ever done this (I have), you probably felt at least a twinge of guilt (I did). Because we expect children to be curious and to ask questions. We want them to not accept easy, shallow answers. We want them to understand many parts of life at a deeper level.

Just not today while we’re trying to get shoes on.

When it comes to insight about faith, science, God, love, mercy, justice, grace, sin, anger, hope, forgiveness, peace and spirituality, though… most of us are just that: too busy trying to get our shoes on. We take the first answer or the second and then skip right to the “Because God said so,” or “It will be explained later [after we’re dead, maybe].”

We have two main sets of tools for how we endeavor to answer deeper levels of “Why?” in our lives:

science and faith.

I think each is powerful enough to warrant a quest for meaning that respects both. I think we can resolve the apparent dichotomies between a rich spiritual life and a vigorous intellectual curiosity. I think we can find specific, measurable, material value in many of the intangible ideals we associate with faith such as love, forgiveness and mercy.

I think we can worship God without sacrificing science. And I think we can seek to better understand the way the universe works without in any way endangering ideas of spirituality.

At the very least, maybe we can respect that there is less of a divide between the two than often seems the case.

In the end, if we are spiritual beings, we inhabit (for now) a physical world that has tremendous impact on our spirituality. Understanding “Why?” those two sets of values exist together may be the key to deeper wisdom in both.

As physical creatures, we may reject any ideas of religion. But these ideas have so clearly marked so much of human understanding that it is nearly impossible to decipher any of our deeper “Why?” moments without at least referencing and coming to grips with spirituality as a core human attribute.

It is my firm belief that the laws of the universe — the ultimate “Why’s” — are all part of the same system, whether those be laws that drive the movement of planets around suns or drive us to seek joy and love.

Science is the study of the universe. If there is spirit in the universe, science will confirm spiritual truth.

Religion is the quest for all truth. If science helps us understand the universe, the laws of God will confirm what our senses and instruments tell us.

There is no divide. There is no antagonism that we don’t create for ourselves. There is no contradiction. There can’t be.

Because, in the end, there can be only one, final “Why?”