Though the sky is clear overhead and sunshine bathes the land, clouds have banked up against the foothills, with the look of an impending thunderstorm. Alongside the creek at the upper end of the parkland, the wind suddenly roars in, whipping the new foliage and dumping a lot of spring matter into the stream.
It begins to sprinkle, and then drizzle, before the sun comes out again and the sweetest rain begins to fall. It lasts for a quarter of an hour, but one barely gets wet sitting under an umbrella of big sycamore leaves. As the rain falls, a group of young people carrying inner tubes passes behind me, not letting a little rain disrupt their plans for a float down the creek.
After the sunshine-downpour stops, a redheaded woodpecker lands in the dead tree about five meters away. It begins tapping away at the wood in a hole it had begun some time before. I wasn’t sure the woodpecker was aware of me until I shifted slightly in my seat and it scurried around to the back of the tree.
At first only its head goes in, but soon half of its body is inside as it taps away at the soft bark. By the time I leave, it is going all the way in to remove mouthfuls of spongy wood, with only its tail feathers sticking out of the hole. The fluffy wood rains down gently to the ground, a short distance from my feet, while the woodpecker’s mate stands guard on a nearby branch.
Then the male black and white bird with the red cap leaves its work and flies up to its mate, mounting her for a brief bit of intercourse before flying back to work on their nest.
A couple of days later when I return to the place, I don’t see the woodpeckers. But after my senses become attuned to the surroundings, I hear a faint tapping from within the dead tree ten feet in front of me.
Sure enough, after a quarter hour, a small head with a red patch pokes out of the hole. The woodpecker flies out of the nest, and joins its mate, which had appeared a moment before on an upper branch of the tree. He mounts her and they copulate briefly, and then fly off together.
About fifteen minutes later, the male returns, and slowly, cautiously, reenters the nest it’s building, clearly aware of the human sitting below. It again begins dropping large mouthfuls of soft wood from the hole. The debris floats down to the ground as it repeats the procedure again and again.
A couple of cyclists go by behind me, and in less than ten seconds I hear a life story. “I was riding with this guy the other day,” the fellow begins, “and he says, ‘you’re Mormon, aren’t you?’ I say yeah, and he tells me he’s getting back into it, and is about to do some traveling and teaching again.”
“Right out of the blue?” a young woman replies. “Yeah; pretty compelling,” the fellow answers.
Few people go beyond the hedges of their conditioning, and when they bump into them, they take their constraints for confirmation of its validity. We are like children splashing around in muddy ponds when there are undiscovered oceans in which we can swim.
Ironically, science, which is a never-ending exploration and discovery, has contributed to the narrowing of human horizons, by implicitly replacing a sense of life’s mystery with the illusion that everything can be known.
As astronomer Robert Jastrow said, “Science has had such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time, that we forget that science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation.”
Does that mean humans won’t be able to push scientific enquiry back further than the Big Bang? I don’t know, but even if we do, we will always be begging the question.
The mystery of creation (which didn’t begin with the Big Bang and won’t end in endless entropy) cannot be resolved either by resorting to scientism or falling back on theism/deism. There is neither a separate ‘Creator,’ nor did the beauty, logic, and complexity of life arise by chance.
In science, questions lead to insights and knowledge; in spirituality, questions lead to insight and silence. Questioning is all that really matters, whether to resolve the mysteries of science, or renew the mystery of life.