StoryRhyme After Dark: The Why of It

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The Why of It
By Harry Buschman


I don't know a great deal about space; and I'd be the first to admit I don't know much about time either. No one ever thought I was important enough to take me aside and explain them to me.

Then there's life. I don't know much about life either – and what it's relation to time and space might be. I don't know how it all began or how it's going to end. But I can tell you this; space is big, time is long and life is very short.

The heaviest thin book I ever read was Stephen Hawking's, "A Brief History of Time." Professor Hawking taught me a few things: A black hole is really brilliantly white. Just before matter is sucked into it, it reaches the speed of light and converts itself into energy. What we see is matter waving goodbye to us as it disappears into a great cesspool in the sky. Then there's the business of an expanding and contracting universe – you know, like a balloon you blow up and then let the air out of again. Professor Hawking says if the universe has enough matter in it, it could contract to a single blob and maybe the whole business would start over with "Big Bang II." Just think of that!

Should that happen, the Professor warns us that when expansion ends and contraction begins, time may very well run backward. Think of its effect on the insurance business and the point spread on NFL Sunday football games. But Dr. Hawking is quick to soothe us by admitting that while such a situation is possible in scientific terms it is not practical in human terms. So for better or worse, we may go backward, but our time will plod along forwards just the way it always has.

My problem is life – always has been. I have a pretty good idea of what life is but I can't tell you why it is. I used to walk the green belt along Northern State Parkway with my dog – we checked out life along the way. In late summer you’d swear life had given up along the green belt and when spring came there would be nothing but soggy six-pack containers and plastic hamburger boxes. But then, when we get home, I had to take the dog out back and comb the burrs and seed cases out of his fur. Life, dead as it seemed to be, had developed hooks and serrations to catch in the fur of animals and the cuffs of men's denims. It seemed to know my dog and I would take next year's life with us and plant it in more fertile soil.

That's the 'what' of it, and from the 'what' of it I can even figure out the 'how' of it. But what puzzles me is the 'why' of it. In this brave new world I am sure science will find all the answers to what life is. When the last gene falls into place it will know the how of it, but not the why of it.

If dead grasses and weeds have faith in the dog and me; if they place their helpless dried husks and seed pods in our care to take away with us and grow again, there is something of the why of it to be learned from that. Life does not end with dying.

I can live with that.

(c) 2012 Harry Buschman
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