Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Trees are Coming Into Leaf

Sometimes being five is the best age to be. I'm not sure if I'd want to be five again but there's something fresh and joyful about the way most five-year-olds look at the world. This morning I was summoned from my station in the kitchen to witness an amazing new discovery:

'Look daddy, look what's happening to the trees!'

What was happening to the trees is what happens to the trees at this time every year. What was happening was as unremarkable and as ordinary as the sun rising in the morning. What was happening was that the leaves had started showing, unfurling and transforming those dead skeletons of wood outside our house into obviously living things again.

But to a five-year-old it was anything but ordinary; I suppose the run rising in the morning, waking him earlier and earlier at this time of year (more on that story later!) is anything but ordinary too. In fact, I suppose it's something of a minor miracle.

The atheists among us have a problem: all this eternal renewal - including the many millions of new humans born each year - doesn't get anyone anywhere. We're all going round in gigantic cosmic circles (or ellipses, I suppose) and the only teleological purpose of it all is extinction.

But you can't deny the utter beauty of 'creation' (including the humanity and its achievements) and it's therefore difficult - if not impossible - to conceive of it as being nothing more than a existential accident.     Don't laugh; don't such difficulties keep you awake at night as well? No? Oh well...

It just occurred to me that if there was nothing else to life, no God, no purpose (and I'm not suggesting that there isn't, merely stating it for the sake of argument) then the simple joy of a discovery like new leaves on the trees, the sheer joy all children have (or should have) in discovering new and interesting things about the world around them (tired though they might be to the rest of us) might make it all - the struggles, the worry, the hardships and hassles - worth it. If that was all there is, I think I'd take it. The meaning of life? It's the joy of discovery, the delight in new knowledge and the ability to notice things - simple things, mundane things - and take delight in them and see the vast universe of unknowns as a tremendous, exciting opportunity.

And that's the problem with grown ups, isn't it?

We think we know it all.

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