Why Ask the Big Questions -- When You Could Be Having a Beer?

What do you think? Does the sacred express itself in the material world? Or are we mortals pretty much on our own here in this humongous universe? Here's what a friend of mine, neonatal pathologist Geoff Machin has to say on the question:

Is he on to something, or is he grasping for straws?

"Human beings are the only living things that know they exist and ask why. We'd probably have more fun if we didn't ask so many questions, just go to the beach and have a beer.

Well, some of us do bother about these things, we live with the questions. That is God in us, I think. That is the extent to which we are made in God's image.

The very fact that so many people push toward a meaningful basis for their lives is, to me, evidence of God's existence." -- Geoff Machin

I like what Geoff says here. I like to believe that the sacred is at work in the world. And I don't mean in extravagant, show-offy ways (miraculous deathbed cures, multi-million-dollar wins at the lottery, parking spots that show up out of nowhere when you're late for your periodontist appointment.).

I'm thinking of a leading force that invites us to be our generous, compassionate selves. A spirit that assures us that we matter and that therefore, by golly, our choices matter.

I think that's what Geoff means when he talks about "a meaningful basis" for our lives. And I like the fact that Geoff thinks this way. He's a hard-headed scientific type -- a retired neonatal pathologist, born in England, who grew up in the Church of England and studied at Oxford.

He's a realist who believes that Alfred Lord Tennyson got it right when he suggested that nature is "red in tooth and claw" -- bloody and competitive. He also suspects that most creatures walking (swimming, swarming, floating, flying) around on this planet are not much interested in anything beyond where the next meal is coming from.

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Photo by Barbara Newhall

Yet Geoff also believes that we human beings are capable of a selflessness and a desire for meaning that belie our animal nature -- and these qualities originate in the sacred.

Geoff is one of the people I've interviewed for my book, "Wrestling With God: Stories of Doubt and Faith." I know him to be a no-nonsense guy. Which gives me -- that skeptical, no-nonsense part of me, that is -- permission to give way to my long-held and much-treasured hunch that Something is going on out there ( in here?). Something Big.

Barbara Falconer Newhall blogs about her rocky spiritual journey and the view from the second half of life at BarbaraFalconerNewhall.com. Read about "The Day She Popped the Question." More about her book at WrestlingWithGodBook.com.