Monday, April 12, 2010

without any answers at all

My children are growing up. There is a moment in time, a moment that comes and goes and lasts forever, when boys become men. My eldest son is on the far side of that moment suddenly. While he is still dreamy enough to forget his wallet and wander around the house looking for the hat which is actually still on his head, he also has a new, palpable sense of purpose behind his eyes. It is as if he can finally see his future, changing and mutating from day to day. Unsure and out of focus, but he can see it. It is there.

My younger son, my big bang, is another story. His turbulent mind and body are still on the verge of crisis without warning. He cannot stop growing long enough for his horizon to become familiar and comforting. He cannot stop thinking long enough to relax and lay down his arms. But there are moments when he looks into the distance or the sky or the trees of our neighboring woods, and I can see his road suddenly open up before him, and it looks like an adventure. Each day I imagine him closer to some kind of truce with the world, as happened to my older son on the outside of adolescence. But I am not always so sure this truce will come. Probably because I do not know if it has ever come to me.

The older I get and farther I walk, the less I can explain or understand the world around me. When my son looks at me behind a flushed face during one of his rants and tells me that the world is just so stupid, everything is just so wrong, nothing really makes sense, I cannot help but agree with him. The world is just so noisy. War, politics, school are all so strikingly meaningless. Religion, any religion, is just a fabrication of man to answer the unanswerable, therefore letting you off the hook to ponder anything beyond what is written in a book, whether the Bible, the Koran the Torah. Or it is a fabrication of the clergy, in a timeless attempt to keep you stupid?

While these discussions are typical of a thirteen year old with a bright and questioning mind, what may not be typical are my answers. Shouldn't I have some of those by now? Answers, I mean. Shouldn't my life experience have led to a point in time where I could reassure my son that the world would one day make sense to him, that there were answers on his horizon? I certainly thought that would be the case by the time that I got this far, wrinkles and all. But the truth is that inside I commiserate with him. The older I get the more I seem to become a disbeliever. My disbelief, or perhaps the late or missed arrival of knowledge which I thought I should have gained by now, has led me to regularly question everything around me. In truth, I do not believe in a greater good, but that we can only do good with our hands with those that are closest to us. We can live by example and not preach too much or too loudly, and try to empathize with our children and our neighbors. I regularly forget these simple tenants, and become too loud or too selfish. Being a mother and a wife has given the greatest gift of all, as it teaches me that sometimes I have to shut up, because I do not have the answer.

And so my children, husband and I all shut up at once. We hike the woods or ski the mountains. We cook for each other and set our table and pet our sweet dog. We eat and laugh about nothing in particular, and wonder whether my oldest will attend an Italian university, whether my youngest will join the Peace Corps, whether my husband and I will make it to India again. Will it snow? Will we see the bright white jack rabbit come out from its den behind our house again? Will we swim with a sea turtle again? We imagine our children grown, and my husband and I moving into a smaller house. A tiny house even, with just enough space to thrive, a well stocked kitchen and with enough storage for our traveling bags and snorkels and skis, a place we can leave and come back to. And we go to bed and wake up again. Without any answers at all.


anne said...
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anno said...

Words are strange things, abstract and often insufficient for the work we expect them to do; by nature, they categorize and create artificial divides. I like this idea of yours that sometimes it is important to just shut up, to be quiet, listen, and live by example. To go on hikes, cook together, laugh, make plans, dream -- these are all ways of making connections, of navigating the unanswerable questions of life in a way that best expresses your deepest values. Maybe you haven't found certainty, but it sure seems like you have found some measure of truth. Beautiful post.