A fitting end to a philosophical discussion

It was a public holiday and even though it was winter the weather was fine, so my husband and I decided to take the boys to the park. On the way there, Jeremy said “I know lot of things but there are 3 things I don’t know”. My reply was “Only three things? Did you know that the more that you know, the more you realise you don’t know? Hopefully, in a year there will be 30 things you don’t know and in 3 years there will be 300 things you don’t know and so on.” My husband pointed out that the problem with that, was that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Jeremy asked again “Do you want to know the three things that I’m not sure about?” and then, just so we wouldn’t change the topic again, he quickly added “Space, death and life!” I nodded my head slowly as if to say ‘Great call’.

Jeremy asked me “What do you think happens after you die?” and I said “Well, different people think different things happen after you die.” Jeremy and Damian started talking about what understood death to mean. They talked about not knowing things when you are dead and not being able to do things. They talked about not even  knowing that they are not knowing stuff and not even knowing that they are dead. I rather lamely slip in the word ‘broken’, “The body is broken and can’t work anymore” but judging by their non-plussed reaction it was already obvious to them.

Jeremy and Damian used to get upset with the idea of death. A couple of years ago, Jeremy told me that he was going to ask my husband to build a machine that could bring people back to life  (he must have got the idea from ‘time machines’ on kids television programs). Jeremy was devastated* when my husband confirmed that it was not possible. However, today they were not upset, just curious.

We move on to the topic of life. I say “hmm… well, life is pretty easy. We are alive right now”. Jeremy replied “Yes but where did we come from?”

Jeremy has known about ‘the birds and the bees’ ever since several months ago when I overheard him whispering to Damian that we came from ‘white blood cells’. I was impressed that he had figured out there were cells involved. Years ago, I had purchased the following books (here and here) in anticipation of the discussion about where babies come from. So now Damian and Jeremy have been ‘age- appropriately’ educated about it and have easy access to the books whenever they want to read them.

Given that Jeremy knew where we each individually came from and that we have also discussed Evolution before too, I decided to explain where I thought all things came from. I said to Jeremy “Well, this is where I think everything came from and it’s just what I think, not what everyone else thinks. I believe that everywhere there is at first nothing and when I mean nothing, I mean no air, no particles, no light; just nothing. I also believe that something comes from nothing. From the nothingness a negative particle and a positive particle can occur**. These particles appear often enough in space to sometimes interact with each other in ways that create new particles, which sometimes create larger particles and so on and so on and that’s ultimately where everything in space comes from. That’s what I believe.”

Jeremy asks “What about the Big Bang Theory?” I say that I don’t know much about that. I now suspect it’s just one small (compared to the greater nothingness) occurrence among many other occurrences in space. I don’t know much about space so don’t take my word for it. In fact, I know that I know ‘next to nothing’ about space.

I was baptised and raised as a Catholic. However, as a teenager, I stopped believing in God because it did not seem plausible to me nor did not seem the most fair way to live. I didn’t believe that Eve was created for Adam, I did not think it was fair that men had the greater roles within the church and I did not believe that people were to rule over all animals either. I did not believe in spirits, I did not believe in heaven or hell and I did not think I had committed a sin for not believing in something without having seen it for myself. You can call me a ‘doubting Thomas’ if you like. You get the idea.

The one thing I do believe in is treating people as you would like to be treated. Although, I would even modify that to ‘treating people as they would like to be treated.’ Not everyone wants to be treated like I do and vice versa.

Of course, in the end it is all a matter of interpretation but no religious interpretation of life ever made sense to me. The more objective answers from science seemed to hold the most truth for me; Evolution and the idea that ‘something’ can come from ‘nothing’.

Most of my family remain believers in the Catholic faith and so my boys have had exposure to the concept of God. I take pains not to impose my beliefs on them so that they can make up their own minds about what they believe in, although when Damian asked for statues of God for Christmas (of which there are none, I was to find out, only statues of Jesus) I was sure to include statues of other religious figures so that he was aware of the existence of other belief systems too.

Recently, my boys even read the following prayers (which they were very excited about and read them very well) at my mother’s wedding, at mum’s request:

(Jeremy) For Granny and Adrian who being married life today, for peace in times of chaos and confusion, for generosity, for faith in each other and love beyond reason. May their lives be a sacrament of Christ’s irrational, irresistible, and invincible love for us all.

(Damian) For all those who have died, especially the relatives and friends of Granny and Adrian and of all present today. May they enjoy perfect happiness and total fulfillment in eternal life.

Although, I believe in the scientific explanations of life, I know that I can never be 100% sure of what I believe because every now and then, it occurs to me how fascinating it is that I am alive now with such consciousness, which is not even a fraction of infinite time and space (that I believe in) and that makes it highly improbable that such a thing could happen. The odds of me being alive now are so extraordinary slim that I have to wonder if there is another explanation but it’s just a fleeting thought because I don’t know what a more plausible explanation could be. I know that I don’t know for sure, how things began.

However, returning to topic…Damian, being familiar with God, says “Well I think that God claps and that is where the particles come from” and I said “Then where does God come from? Is God a person?” Jeremy replies “God and all the spirits, came from the particles”.

Jeremy and Damian start getting enthusiastic about mentioning all the ways that God could create particles until Damian took it too far and said “God farted” and my husband added “and that is where all the particles came from” and that is pretty much where the conversation ended. A fitting end to a philosophical discussion.


* I found these books (here, here and here) helpful for helping my boys come to terms with death.

** I remember in high-school reading about an experiment conducted in a vacuum where an anti-neutrino and a neutrino appeared from that vacuum spontaneously (I think?), the process of which, was captured on an electron microscope. I never bothered to research it further, it was an idea that worked for me. For the purposes of this blog, I decided to do a quick Google search on the concept of ‘something from nothing’ to see if I didn’t imagine it and I chose one article that was easy enough to read to give you some idea of it, click here.



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