I listen to music while doing just about anything: while cooking and while cleaning up; while reading and writing; while running or mowing the lawn. Over the past few months, I’ve had a tune stuck in my head—a song by José González, the Swedish singer and songwriter. It’s called “El Invento” (Spanish for “the invention”).
It’s a sparse tune—almost a lullaby—and it hangs on a series of questions:
Dime por qué será
Dime por dónde vas
Dime de dónde somos
(Tell me why it is so
Tell me where you’re going
Tell me where we’re from
González wrote this song as a reflection on the big questions in life, and the title reflects his belief that there is no higher power out there who can answer them. He and I may part ways on that matter, but the desire and longing behind the refrain remains quite moving. These questions are as basic as those of any child who’s just learning to speak. They are also profound enough for us to ponder with our dying breath.
Anytime someone tells you that they have found a way to answer these questions beyond a shadow of a doubt, I recommend that you run the other way. It is hard to prove or disprove that which stands beyond our means of knowing, and that is part of the reason why I do not see much of a conflict between science and religion (at least in the way that the tension is usually framed). I try to remind people that science has a firm grasp on the “how,” but it is less adept at addressing the “why.” The Christian faith provides some guideposts for the latter, as do many other faith traditions. But to think that these questions are settled is to ignore the very God we find in Scripture: the one who answers Job from a whirlwind and whispers to Elijah cowering on the Holy Mountain; the one who was fond of responding to questions with parables that posed even more—and the one who meets us, here and now, as we continue the search in a world always teetering on the edge of chaos and madness.
Raw knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom—and we are sorely in need of the latter. May we have the grace to seek it, come what may.
—Fr. JavierTags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey