The birth of our son today leads to thoughts of matters of significance: of the miracles and improbabilities of love and life; of the cosmic scope of unbounded affection and the microscopic details it discovers; of the sweetness of sacrifice for sweetness; of the paradox of pain in beauty and beauty in pain; of phlegm and blood and the sacred oils of life; of the indescribable perfume of a newborn and the musicality of his cry; of the promise of motets, poems, and equations that threads through a life from the moment of conception; of the paradox that one plus one equals one, two, four, or more; of the perfect symmetry of our asymmetrical familial lives; of a softness too delicate to believe and too tough to be broken; of the illogical logic of a mother’s love; of trust and patience and a million other things that shouldn’t exist in a purely material world; of souls and blessings and angels; and of a father’s circular reasoning.
There are biological and anthropological explanations for all this. Studies of nature show we are unnaturally natural and naturally unnatural, that we have the same codes at the heart of our being as chimps and many of the same behaviors circling out from that almost-identical genetic blueprint. Physics and astronomy combine with chemistry to form a foundation for a biological explanation for why I would fight to the death for my son, daughter, and wife, but even the most elaborate string theory or quantum physics can make sense of it, can discover why I should, can illuminate the goodness of altruism.
And so I am left in a chilly room with an exhausted wife and a swaddled son, an energetic daughter bouncing from idea to idea with grandparents who can only try to keep up, and the realization that at the heart of it, the mystery of this all is what must be at the start and finish of any human endeavor. Mystery is the thread through our lives that strings together all our happy accidents and makes continuity out of chaos. Mystery, in the form of love, is the thread that makes embroidery out of our lives, but someone must be pulling on the needle.