Oranges, Souffle, and Bach
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
I’m married. I have a kid, with another one on the way. It’s entirely possible that my wife and kid don’t love me. My wife says she loves me, but I have no way of proving it. The kiss and hug she gave me before she went to bed tonight isn’t exactly proof, nor is the fact that she keeps our home neat and tidy, or fixes dinner many nights, or listens to me rant and rave about… well, about everything. None of that proves anything. Maybe she’s just afraid to be alone, or has always wanted kids and I’m a somewhat reliable provider of ridiculously cute ones (not that I should get all the credit for that, of course). Maybe she doesn’t want to be a single parent and have our kids grow up without a dad. Or maybe something else…
And yet I choose to believe she loves me because the alternative (also unprovable) doesn’t sit well with me, and it wouldn’t be good for our daughter. Essentially I choose to believe she loves me because I’m married to her. In spite of the fact that I don’t have proof either way, I have enough evidence to convince me she does. I choose to believe she loves me because even if she didn’t, I’d choose to believe it anyway… for a lot of different reasons. Turns out, love doesn’t bend to fact-finding missions or maps of the brain or scientific speculation.
One thing I do know for sure, though. If God didn’t exist, then love wouldn’t, either, because love without God isn’t love ~ it’s just a mechanical impulse triggered by billions of tiny synaptic connections wrought by some primal impulse to survive.
I believe in God because I’ve committed my life to Him, for better and for worse. I believe in God because my life actually makes more sense when I do. I believe because, though I don’t have proof, I have a lot of evidence that points to His reality. I believe in God because if I didn’t, existence would become a horror (Silenus, Nietzsche’s silent muse, said it would have been best for us if we’d never been born, and to die as soon as possible was the next best thing).
I’m more convinced than ever that life seems absurd only because it makes intrinsic sense. If it were truly absurd, we’d be the last to know, since its very absurdity would preclude us from ever noticing. Just like the person who, because he thinks he is going insane, isn’t (the truly insane never think they are), so, too, we only can speculate that life is meaningless precisely because it isn’t.
Nietzsche, Freud, Camus, Sartre? They’re erstwhile prophets of gloom who, ironically, remind us of life’s essential goodness. And atheism? The whole project is a house of cards that with a single touch falls in on itself. It’s low hanging fruit, intellectually speaking, accessible to millions but too obvious to be true. Of course there’s no God. We can’t see Him. We can’t hear Him. We can’t feel him. We can’t, that is, as long as we don’t listen to poetry or read stories, or make love, or cut oranges, or bake souffle, or listen to Bach…
Nihilism only makes sense to the already-dead. As for those of us still living, the dumb certainties of life keep getting in the way. We keep knocking into God. Chesterton rightly said that atheists, more than anyone, need to be careful what they read. Or, for that matter, what they see and hear and taste. God is everywhere, and is there where he is absent ~ perhaps most where he is absent.
And it is God, after all, who prods us to question him, commands us to remand him, positively encourages us to rail against him for his silence, his seeming indifference, his apparent neglect. Jesus himself asked the question that all of us have asked at one point or another. It served as his parting shot this side of the grave, in fact:
Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani?
Jesus did not go gently into that good night, and neither should we. Life has meaning, and Christ reminds of that. It’s very arbitrariness begs to be understood. Our very rush to explain away God shows our penchant for meaning. We can’t escape it. It’s the drug of choice for skeptics and scientists, philosophers and believers. We want to know. And the meaning of life lurks just beneath the surface of things, always ready to confound, to bewilder, to animate. I am reminded of the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who once asked in a moment of great clarity and confusion:
Who is this Christ, who interferes in everything?