I’m always looking for apt metaphors and similes that comment on Life. It’s an odd preoccupation. After all, describing Life is like looking at yourself through a microscope – or sometimes a telescope… But you see? I couldn’t help it; I had to write a simile describing reading similes about Life… Am I in an MC Escher drawing?
Forrest Gump’s mother had a good one: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Or Zorba’s fiery declaration: “Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die.” Allan Rufus, a self-help author, said, “Life is like a sandwich. Birth as one slice, and death as the other. What you put in between the slices is up to you.” John W Gardner, a thoughtful educator, public official, and political reformer, wrote: “Life is like a drawing without an eraser.”
There are, of course, endless examples of these pithy aphorisms. Some are profound. Others – not so much. And every one of them is right – and ultimately insufficient. How do we even begin to define existence? There is so much we don’t even know! We fundamentally do not understand the origins of the Universe itself. We fundamentally do not understand the origins of Life.
I believe with all of my heart that searching for answers and similes and metaphors that illuminate this most primary of all questions is a vital task. We have to keep searching. It’s in our DNA. And it undergirds our belief that through this search, we see that Life is precious.
We want to understand our origin stories. We want so badly to figure out how we got here. Astrophysics, cosmology, astronomy, paleo-archeology, and paleoanthropology are all sciences that push hard at the boundaries of human knowledge to derive meaning from the chaos surrounding us. We spend billions of dollars on an endless variety of new instruments and tests that look up at the furthest reaches of the Universe and look down into the tiniest subatomic particles of quantum mechanics. And all of this is to answer the question, “What is life?”
Scientists tend to beg off what is often the next question to follow: does Life have meaning? They leave that to the theologians. And the philosophers. And to you and me.
Reading the opening verses from the book of Genesis, we see that our ancestors were just as curious as we were. They needed to understand what they saw and experienced and the origins of it all, just like us.
Stephen King said, “Life is like a wheel. Sooner or later, it always comes around to where you started again.” We’ve rolled the Torah all the way to Genesis 1:1. Here we are, pondering the process of creation, the origins of everything. Again. Welcome back.