It is the greatest mystery of all. It saturates every moment of my life. And I can't solve it. It frustrates me.
I want to solve it. Millions believe they've discovered the solution. I often wish I were like them—certain and content. But I can never quite get there. I can never fully feel that certainty and contentment, at least above a basic level.
That basic level goes something like this:
There is something. There is more than something. There is everything. And what we know about the natural world, about every living thing, is that seemingly limitless intelligence reveals itself in the exquisite design not just of every living being, but in every component part and system of every living being.
And what seems true is that each one of those component parts and systems is depthless, in that each relies on subserving systems. The subserving systems themselves rely on subserving systems, and on down it goes.
How far down does that vertical systems chain go? Just how microscopic is that deepest micro-micro-micro-micro-microscopic level? Or is there a "deepest level"? How could there be any system, no matter how microscopic, which doesn't itself rely on an antecedent system? After all, as Richard Rodgers once noted, nothing comes from nothing—nothing ever could.
So here I am, already stumped. There are two possibilities, each of which is as unfathomable as the other:
Either the vertical systems chain giving flower and functionality to every living thing is infinite, and has no starting point;
Or it does have some starting point, behind which, by definition, lies nothing.
Both appear to be impossible. Certainly, each is unfathomable.
But that's the thing. Obviously there's something magnificent and all-encompassing going on. And obviously, I can't manage to get anywhere in figuring out what it is. And it's everywhere. It's life itself, and inside and through every aspect of it.
One of the frustrating things about all this is that science is little, or no, help. Actually, I felt embarrassed even typing the word "science" just then. After the last three years, I don't even know to what extent "science" exists anymore (as opposed to just "scientists"—which is to say, a bunch of co-opted, regime-propagandist, grant-hounds who mindlessly yelp out whatever their funding sources want). Why should I believe what any life scientist says about the deep mysteries of life, when they all ran around for three years lying about how a two-cent, ill-fitting slice of Chinese tissue paper (made out of God knows what) would magically protect everyone from contracting a coronavirus? They knew that was false. They all said it anyway. So screw them. (And I haven't even gotten to Exhibit B: their Pfizer-funded declarations that mRNA injections were "perfectly safe and effective", when we all knew, even in real time, they had no more clue about their contents than a zoo monkey—meaning they were lying about that, too).
As the late, great Kathy Shaidle used to say, "science is bunk"—at least, far more of it than we used to believe. And no one except "scientists" themselves have proved it (Exhibit C: Michael Mann and his oh-so-lucrative hockey stick pictures—and we could list thousands of other examples).
Anyway, back to the great mystery of life. Science, such as it is, isn't much help when it comes to the deepest questions. The fact is, no one has any clue how life began. It's not even clear to what extent anyone understands how life, once started, came to exist in its present diverse forms.
It's amazing, really. For decades, a caste of dogmatic, paradigm-entrapped blowhards have demanded—in the name of science—that everyone believe everything they say about evolution. Anyone who hesitated, they labeled an ignoramus or "science-denier". Macro-evolution was real, and its great driver was natural selection. The end.
But for some of us—broader questions about macro-evolution aside—natural selection didn't quite add up. That it could have produced such a gargantuan diversity of living forms within the possible time frames seemed implausible to the point of being effectively impossible. Yet the Scientific Inquisitors didn't permit doubts. Darwinism—their version of it, anyway—was the One True Truth. Doubters were demons.
In fact, in a version of "more Catholic than the Pope", the Dawkins Bully Brigade once even took to demonizing evolutionary biologist (and committed Darwinist) David Sloan Wilson for the thought-crime of theorizing natural selection at the group level (Dawkins claims selection only occurs at the level of genes). Wilson protested that Darwin himself had proposed group-level selection. But the evolutionary Torquemadans were more Darwinian than Darwin himself (oops—mixing up the metaphors again), and maligned Wilson as a bad scientific actor.
In any case, as it happens, the know-it-alls were wrong about natural selection being the only game in town. In 2020, Yale scientists studying epigenetics demonstrated that purely environmental changes affected gene networks in yeast cells. Those environmentally-induced gene changes were then passed on to offspring. Dozens of other studies over the past two decades have provided intriguing evidence that the long-mocked 18th century French scientist Jean Baptiste Lamarcke might well have been on to something after all. Environment and experience, it appears, can produce heritable traits. Certainly, at least in its exclusive-truth claims, Darwinisn has taken a body blow.
Not that you'll read about that anywhere, at least in those terms. Oh no. We can't have the yokels finding out their reluctance to mindlessly accept every plank of Darwinism has been vindicated. Or that, not for the first time, all the blowhards who—like Tyrant Gnome Fauci—claim to be the living, breathing incarnation of Objective Knowledge on Earth, turn out to be full of bovine global-warming emissions on some important topic.
So once again, I am left flailing for some clear view of how everything works, where it comes from, how it sustains itself, and what exactly to make of deep, persistent intuitions about a realm beyond the one accessible to the physical senses. The desire to figure it all out never leaves, and I can't turn it off. Whoever or wherever God is, he evidently implanted within me a ceaseless desire to unravel the mystery, while denying me (and, I suppose, everyone else) the ability to ever do so.
Off the bat, that feels kind of unfair. But maybe it isn't. Maybe, for the Great Author of Creation, whoever or whatever it is, the quest is what's really important. Maybe the questing scores you celestial points. Or maybe it's the effort to discover that draws us closer, and keeps us close, to the source of All Cosmic Right—not mere knowledge. We search and ponder and strive to understand the elusive mystery, but never quite get there. We only get little glimpses here and there, but never enough to satisfy our deepest longings.
But one can feel grateful for the little glimpses, I suppose, especially during the Easter/Passover weekend.
One glimpse I had, I'll never forget. I was in fifth grade. I remember the trees had started to bloom, so it must have been right around this time of year. Our teacher, Mr. Nymeyer, one day introduced us to a woman named Mrs. Thomas. She was older, but radiated youthful exuberance. Mr. Nymeyer said she was going to teach us all how to sing.
Mrs. Thomas introduced herself and told us we'd all become such good singers, that before the end of the school year, we would perform at a special festival for school choirs in front of a large audience. She then proceeded to sit down at the old upright piano in our classroom and play the first of several songs she had selected for us. She sang the melody for us as she played.
The song lyrics went like this:
God made our hands
To give and receive his blessings
He made each voice for singing a happy song
God made our feet to walk on the path of service
He made a smile for smiling the whole day long
God gave us eyes, then filled all the world with beauty
Sunshine and trees and stars above
Wonder of all, He gave us a gift so special:
God made us a heart to share His love
A heart to share His love
We practiced each day with Mrs. Thomas. She even trained some of us boys to sing the lower harmony parts—no small feat, you would think, when normally we would have preferred to be out playing baseball or kick the can.
But the perpetually smiling, sincere, assertive Mrs. Thomas won all of us over almost instantly. And the more we all sang together, the more we liked singing together. And when we finally traveled to the school choir festival, got up onstage, and following the woman we all admired, singing "God Made Our Hands" as well as we could, surrounded by all of our best friends in the world...it did feel utterly enveloping in some divine way—stirring and binding like nothing I'd experienced before. It felt like God himself was there with us. (You can hear a youth choir sing that song here).
That whole experience made such an impression on me, young as I was, that the lyrics and melody never left me. Throughout the rest of my teens, twenties, and beyond, I've found myself humming the song, here and there, throughout every experience of my life, happy and sad.
And I figure if I never manage to figure out anything more about the deepest mysteries of our existence, living the rest of my life with far more questions than answers, at least I'll always feel grateful for that little glimpse of heaven, and all the others I've had over the years. Maybe, in the end, that should be enough.
I hope everyone's had a wonderful Easter and Passover weekend.
See you next week.
Mark Steyn Club members can let Tal know what they think in the comments below. Commenting is one of many perks that come along with Club membership, which you can check out for yourself here. Tal will be among Mark's special guests on the upcoming Mark Steyn Cruise along the Adriatic, which sails July 7-14, 2023. Get all the details and book your stateroom here.
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: