Monday, August 3, 2009

The Riddle

A couple of years ago, my wife and I were driving from some place to some place else when Five for Fighting's "The Riddle" came on the radio. "Have you heard this one?" she asked. "I don't think so..." Then she smiled, "You're gonna love it." She was right.

"The Riddle" is a tapestry in tune that weaves man's fear of being insignificant, the quest for meaning in life, and a child's sense of wonder into a love song. For Love, we discover, is the answer to the "Riddle."

Love is at the heart of singer/songwriter John Ondrasik's other works as well (The name Five for Fighting is not the number of band members, incidentally, but alludes to the penalty time for fighting in hockey). Through a dominant lead of piano and his operatic ability to hit those soaring notes, Ondrasik begins with the question of questions put to an old man who is soon to die; "What's the sense in life?"

What is it all about? Why me, why here, why now? The answer comes as a riddle. The aged man invites the younger to ask the big questions, to experience the wonder of the world and draw his own conclusions.

He said, "Son, why you got to sing that tune?
Catch a Dylan song or some eclipse of the moon?
Let an angel swing and make you swoon
Then you will see, you will see..."

Then he said, "Here's a riddle for you.
Find the answer: There's a reason for the world
You and I."

Today, we are so often made to feel insignificant as human persons. Some larger entity becomes the driving force of our efforts and our time, and we are cogs in the machine, consumers that must consume to drive on the economic mechanism, the success of the Almighty Dollar. But we know there's more to Life than this. We all hearken to the strains of this music that sings us a fairy tale, a story about our being More than just random pieces in a random puzzle that's the result of random chance.

"Man is not a lost atom in a random universe"
- Pope Benedict XVI

The younger man in the song grows older and has a son of his own. Still he longs to know the answer to this riddle of human life, and asks his son on the way home from school if he's "learned anything";

He said, "Dad I'm big, but we're smaller than small
In the scheme of things, well we're nothing at all."
Still every mother's child sings a lonely song
"So play with me, come play with me."

And hey Dad, here's a riddle for you
Find the answer: There's a reason for the world
You and I?

Faced with the enormous size of the universe, we can often feel that "in the scheme of things, well we're nothing at all." But it is not always the size of a thing that matters. Is not the miracle of human life communicated through the microscopic cells of sperm and egg? If the human body were compared to a universe, and those reproductive cells could speak, they would certainly think themselves insignificant. But the continuation of the human race literally depends on these seemingly insignificant, "smaller than small" cells!

Some philosopher's speak of the anthropic principle, according to which the whole universe seems to have been mapped out from the start for human life to develop. Dr. Peter Kreeft says "If the temperature of the primal fireball that resulted from the Big Bang some fifteen to twenty billion years ago, which was the beginning of our universe, had been a trillionth of a degree colder or hotter, the carbon molecule that is the foundation of all organic life could never have developed. The number of possible universes is trillions of trillions; only one of them could support human life: this one. Sounds suspiciously like a plot. If the cosmic rays had bombarded the primordial slime at a slightly different angle or time or intensity, the hemoglobin molecule, necessary for all warm-blooded animals, could never have evolved. The chance of this molecule's evolving is something like one in a trillion trillion."

The Riddle sings on...

There are secrets that we still have left to find
There have been mysteries from the beginning of time
There are answers we're not wise enough to see
He said, "You looking for a clue? I love you free."

For me, sitting in the car with my wife, driving down a random road to a place I can't remember now the first time I heard this song, I felt that "love" flowing right from the lips of the Creator. The answer to the "problem" of human life, of the whys and whats, is none other than a Person. We are here for each other.... You and I. We are made for communion with God and Neighbor. We are made to be gifts... and everything made is a gift for us.

A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us.
- Pope John Paul II

If we surf through the lyrics of some of the "top hits" today, we find very few that celebrate the pure gift of love, the sheer wonder of looking at another person as gift and not just something to use for pleasure or power. "The Riddle" is a refreshing return to the miracles around us and in us as human persons, to the vision of life that is free from the distorted lens of lust. To the wonder of You and I.... made in God's image and called to image God.

The batter swings and the summer flies
As I look into my angel's eyes
A song plays on while the moon is high over me
Something comes over me

I guess we're big and I guess we're small
If you think about it man you know we got it all
'Cause we're all we got on this bouncing ball
And I love you free, I love you free....

If I could add anything to this Twisted Mystic, it would be to untwist this last verse. Are we all we've got on this bouncing ball? Does Ondrasik leave out the Divine Musician Who set the melody to this music in his own heart? Well, the riddle perhaps continues in another song of Five for Fighting's... "If God Made You:"

I can't say what I might believe
But if God made you then He's in love with me

This Twisted Mystic is obviously still searching for answers. But aren't we all?

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