I’m reading Christian Wiman’s plunging book, My Bright Abyss. Christian is a poet, which means he’s a thinker and feeler and imaginative person. I’ve come through the early chapters of his meditations, small but full chunks about art and death and love and sorrow. He’s turning to the reality (the notion?) of God in the section I’m reading now.
He opens by restating something I’ve heard from you. Christian says behind all of our beliefs, whatever they may be, is the child’s insistent question: Why?
This question has been your favorite for a while. Like cornbread or chocolate or cookies, the word comes from your lips with regularity. I can anticipate it the way I can you being the first to rise from bed.
And with your question comes the distant penetrating truth that whatever I say, whatever your mama says, exhausts. Our answers, however clever, will meet an end, will stall in silence. We will not answer every creation of your curiosity. You have too many questions. You’re too interested in each answer.
And it shows me how deep conversation can go, how full an answer quickly offered can turn into another invitation. At my best, I take a breath and come up with another answer, one that can make sense to you. And even while I’m answering it, I know that that shrunken answer won’t be fully true.
I want to tell you the exact truth, the best answer, even when I know you won’t grasp it. Why? You keep asking. We keep trying. And when we don’t know how to answer, you’re still waiting. And we sit in quiet and ask silence to tell us.