Saturday, 14 June 2014

The How but not the Why: Musings on the Dawn Chorus

I bloody love science, me. Finding out how the world works, from the early hominids to mitochondrial DNA. And I remember when I started University, someone asked me how a faith in God could be sustained when studying evolutionary biology, physical anthropology and all the world's religions. I was convinced then that I did not have any kind of faith, and had started a 3 year course in Archaeology and Anthropology, which I knew would give me all sorts of justifications for denying Jesus. So I never really had to answer the question. And I learned A LOT about how humans have sought to explain the workings of the world.

But As a Christian? Ask me now! Obviously I'm at heart at Anglo-Catholic - as opposed to a fundamental evangelical who takes The Word at its word. Also I prefer to read Genesis as a creation myth, i.e. a way of humans historically trying to understand the universe (sorry to those of you who this viewpoint offends.) Yet I find it hard to fathom how something, EVERYTHING, came out of nothing. So I concurrently hold a supernatural force of energy (God the Creator) responsible for our universe, other universes, the dinosaurs, the primates, and evolution. Which makes sense to (or at least works for) me.

I pretty much can't look at the infinite patterns of snowflakes, think about each person's unique fingerprint, work in a hospital or parent children without a constant background hum of this is amazing/I can see how all of this works/but simultaneously not understand it. Why, why, WHY?

But do you know what really, really made me question the 'why' today?

The Dawn Chorus.

It wasn't exactly dawn, but it was 5.20am, and I'd just put 3rdSister back to bed in the hope that she would snooze a little. (It was 5am yesterday, and she crashed by 5pm. Any prayers to ask for the end of this would be welcome!) So I lay there listening to the beautiful birdsong through the open window. (UK, humid weather, no aircon.) And it fascinated me. First, the workings behind it - I mean why do birds sing first thing in the morning (not to mention that early in the morning.) We are still figuring that out. The International Dawn Chorus Day website refers to 'nature's daily miracle', which I take to mean something we don't quite understand but think is wonderful :-)

But the main thing I don't understand, is why, if everything in the universe happened without some sort of intelligent design or benevolent creator who wants us to seek and find joy in every aspect of life, do I find birdsong so beautiful? I mean, it's completely annoying. It wakes us here in England in the summer, or keeps us from getting back to sleep after that (#motherof4) need to urinate in the early morning. It has its reasons, apparently, for the perpetuation of birds.

But that humans would regard it as musical, beautiful, miraculous - why, why, why? Why is there music anyway? Why although my Aunt sadly died this week was there still some good that came out of her passing? Why is every snowflake different and why were we endowed with the capacity to notice it? And so on. I know that scientific explication can begin to convey the HOW of the universe....but for me, it still falls short on the WHY.

Not everyone will look to God for the answers. Not everyone will just throw 'science' back as an explanation (including many, many scientists and mathematicians.) Some will say there doesn't need to be an answer - that the fact that we can't answer Why? means things just happened and we don't need to ask. I'm not one of those. I think that so many things that I see, hear and experience around me cannot be explained. And this is part of why I have faith. Because as well as being able to reason how the world works, I believe that there's got to be an answer as to WHY things are the way they are - often bonkers, inexplicable, wonderful, heartbreaking or literally supernatural.

And today, for me, that's God.