A journalist once asked Albert Einstein: “What is the most important question we can ask?”
Einstein replied: “Is the universe a safe place?”
That’s a big question. I am not sure how I would answer it. But since I am at the reflective stage of life, it seems like a good time to give it some consideration.
Questions are like little soap bubbles we expel into the air—elusive and ephemeral, the oily marbled skin turning in the sunlight. So pretty I want to gather them up and hold on tight. But the moment I reach out to grasp hold, they disappear.
Good questions are like that. They keep you reaching out, clutching at thin air as the answer eludes you.
These are some other questions evoked by Einstein’s question.
“Is there a God?”
“Does my life have a purpose?”
“Will my children find me as delightful and endearing when I am in diapers as I did them?”
These questions float by, changing shape and colour with each turn, their resolution just beyond my reach.
Is the universe a safe place?
As I sift through childhood memories, the answers are mixed, muddled, hot and cold.
At first it warms me. It snuggles in tightly around me like the flannel blanket I had as a child that made my world feel safe and secure. It smelled of mother’s breast and father’s musky shirts and lilacs and spruce gum and smoke from birch logs crackling in the fireplace, bringing assurances of belonging and being loved.
And it chills me. My body tightens with the memory of the night when a predator entered the bedroom, or the afternoon when a car struck and killed our dog on the highway, or the last day of the school year when my best friend moved away into the city, or when my father moved away.
There are no sureties or guarantees. No one answer to explain all of life’s vagaries. No home lasts forever. Everyone is flawed. Our skin sags and bones weaken and health fails.
All the assurances I counted on as a child have proved as permanent as soap bubbles. Some have been popped for me, some I popped for myself.
So how am I feeling now, looking back over six decades of burst bubbles? Or looking forward to greater uncertainties to come?
I have gathered two insights from this exploration.
First, I can’t answer that question by revisiting the past nor anticipating the future. I can only answer it for myself from inside this day, this moment, this time and place.
Secondly, it’s an intensely personal, subjective question. I cannot answer it for my children or anyone else I might want to protect from pain and harm.
So I turn off reports on the news of wars and famines and corrupt governments. I turn inward to listen to the rhythms of my body. As flesh and blood, I become mindful of the constancy of my breath, rising and falling, supporting me. By a force beyond my own will, I am being upheld, supported and nourished.
I venture out beyond my skin. I explore our beautiful home: safe, comfortable, warm. I marvel at the singular blessedness of sharing it with the love of my life, Patricia.
In this moment, there is security and safety and love all around me.
On this, the 63 anniversary of my launching into the world, sight unseen with no guarantees, my conclusion is, “my universe indeed feels like a safe place.”
Header Image: RCP writer Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck hangs out with a few trolls one year at Deep Freeze. | Supplied
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