arresting moments

My 13 year-old son asked me yesterday, while I was in the middle of transferring him from his walker to his wheelchair, ‘what is the purpose of life, dad?

One of those arresting moments.

I asked him first what made  him ask that question. I have learned to try to get ‘behind’ questions like this if possible, all the better to understand their intent and meaning, rather than jumping in with the particular piece of philosophising that springs to mind on the spur of the moment…and ending up answering a totally different question than the one actually being asked! Catherine asked me recently who had more power – the Queen of England or the President of the United States. Imagine my glee, and her bemusement, as I launched into a brief introduction to Politics 101, sketching the history and relative merits of republican democracy and parliamentary monarchy!

Anyway, back to Christopher’s question.

He said he had been looking at a spider’s web and the eggs the spider had laid there and thinking about spiders making baby spiders and then dying, and how that cycle seems to be the way with all living things, and, well, why? how come? what is the purpose of all this?

We had a good chat about what a profound and ancient question it was he had just asked, and what good company he was in when asking it, and about some of the answers very smart people had come up with over the centuries to try to make sense of such questions and about how it comes about that the human brain even comes up with questions such as this in the first place.

Good to have such moments in the midst of those other necessary, though endless washing-up, food-preparing, property-maintenance, getting-on-with-the-business-of-daily-life type moments.


~ by Garry on October 5, 2009.

2 Responses to “arresting moments”

  1. Morning Garry – Haven’t been in to your blog in a while. Love the new look and love this post. It can be so easy to answer the wrong question – especially with children. We so don’t want them to worry about things. Greer put a beautiful comment yesterday on the post I put up about OMA a few days ago. It reminded me of this post. So much of parenting can be filled with despair and guilt that you’re not doing things as well as you could or ought but then you get Buber moments such as these where I and Thou are talking to each other and the communication becomes almost divine.

  2. hello Connie, thanks for dropping by!
    yes…there are real moments of ‘meeting’ in the fraught art of parenthood aren’t there, and not just in those D & M philosophical conversations.
    On answering the wrong question, it’s like that parent who went through a complex and embarrassed answer when the 9 year old asked what ‘sex’ means, only to have the child say, “But how am I going to fit all that on this form where it says ‘Sex’?”

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