JuliewithFlowers - Copy
I pride myself on answering questions. As a teacher I have the opportunity to answer many, and I try to do so with precision and completeness.

But some questions are different.

This one pierced through the normal routine of question posed, answer given. Or it should have.

With its innocence and purity—and attendant insight and wonder—this question from my young daughter brought me up short.

What an astoundingly good question. Why are there flowers, anyway? I shudder now to think how such a question can be easily cauterized, sanitized, and bound up neatly. How often do we in the position of teacher find ourselves explaining away, rather than explaining. Or rather than simply entering into the wonder—the wonder stemming from having chipped off a little piece of something very big and found it shimmering with an unseen significance—we parry the thrust: effectively making the questioner think he’s asked a question easily handled. We snuff out the wonder. And why? Because we don’t have time; or worse, we lack the child-like humility to enter into the wonder. Wonder can be scary, and uncomfortable.

“Because that’s how plants reproduce.”

Good God, what an answer I gave. As though there could not have been a thousand other ways for plants to reproduce. But they in fact put out flowers!

Yes, Juliana, why. Why? Please ask me again. I promise: I’ll see it through your eyes. At least I’ll try to.

For somewhere in the real answer to your question—the answer you must have sensed, the answer you deserve—is a truth beyond my telling. A truth that will endure for you and for me, even after all the flowers are gone.

Photo: Juliana

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

5 COMMENTS

  1. “In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

    “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

    ― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

  2. Yup, that’s the critical question. If you tack on “And why do flowers turn into fruits and nuts?” it gets even more critical. The answer will run through lots of indisputable scientific detail, but if the answerer is honest and the science is accurate, the last word of the answer is God.

    There’s simply no way around it.

  3. And now, worshipper of final causes and the mere useful in nature, answer but one question,–Why this prodigal variety? … What a waste of power on any utilitarian theory of nature! … Mystery inexplicable on the conceited notion which, making man forsooth the centre of the universe, dares to believe that this variety of forms has existed for countless ages in abysmal sea-depths and untrodden forests, only that some few individuals of the Western races might, in these latter days, at last discover and admire a corner here and there of the boundless realms of beauty…. [E]xplicable enough to him who believes that God has created all things for Himself, and rejoices in His own handiwork, and that the material universe is, as the wise man says, “A platform whereon His Eternal Spirit sports and makes melody.”

    Charles Kingsley, Glaucus; or, The Wonders of the Shore (1855)

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