- by Ronnie Herrema
Airplanes and Manna. Seeking Answers to the Mysteries of Life
And again, the boy asked, “There’s so many big questions. How can I move forward until I know why we’re here, and what the meaning to life really is?”
The old man replied, “Once upon a time, a man, alone in the desert, stumbled upon a fire that burned upon a bush, but did not consume it. It spoke the language of his own breath, but when he asked it questions, it refused to give him an answer. He wanted to know the fire’s name and it replied, “We shall see.” It was looking for adventure, and for that, someone with questions - and the man had many."
We will always strive to find truth, and because truth is endless, we will never stop trying to answer the questions. That is the engine that makes life possible. A question is asked by one side of you, and the other side goes to work for you to answer it. The human story is that we all struggle with this process. We become terrified, enslaved in Egypt, which, is not really living at all.
Part of you demands you need to know, and works to come up with answers: any answer to help it tell lies of security. It comes from the deep recesses of the left reptilian brain, where the devil hides. The part of us that engages our fight or flight mechanism, any moment it senses a detail or situation it cannot fathom.
But we’re invited to a promised land, a place flowing with milk and honey. This place says, “Because life is eternal, I will be eternally asking, and eternally answering, learning in pieces; and each time I learn, I feel reprieve for a moment. But with new learning I find - I have even more questions.
The more we come to know, the more we realize how much we do not know. The bravest souls are the ones that accept the mystery. The mystery that hears the devil on your left ask: What are we all here for? And the angel on the right, humbly uses the word of God and says …”I DO NOT KNOW.”
"The beauty, is not in the conclusion my boy, but in the search… In the question… In the mystery."
When Moses encountered the flames he asked them a name, “Who should I say sent me?” Basically, “What is your name?” The flames drew out his question and they answered with the sound of his own exhale, “Yod-He-Vod-He.” Many Rabbis and Scholars concluded this was a loaded verb that contained a forward energy suggesting, “I will become whatever I will become.” It was mysterious, unanswered, terrifying…but intriguing. It spoke to Moses’ heart, not his head. And when something speaks to your heart, you have no choice but kill it, or follow it. He followed it, and to this, he invited all people, to join him in leaving our answers, and everything we thought we knew behind, and find God in the Question.
The flaming bush wasn’t the conclusion, it was only the beginning spark to get things moving.
Once we can say to ourselves, "I JUST DON’T KNOW", we have finally passed through the parted waters of the Red Sea and returned to our home in the right brain–in the desert–our creative center–the life giving spirit. Living from the part of us that doesn’t do math, or come to logical conclusions, but sings and dances and dreams and…believes. A place where we delight in questions and are sustained by answers that will only satisfy us for today.
This is the manna from heaven.
It is there we take our first steps, trusting that in some hidden and unknown way, there is a deeper meaning than we could ever comprehend. It hums right alongside every atom, every blade of grass, every breath. And just knowing there is meaning is enough to move forward; accepting the bread from clouds for one more day.
If the Israelites took too much manna because they were afraid of what tomorrow might bring, they would find maggots and rot.
They learned, that, in the desert, knowledge for today was enough, and knowledge for tomorrow would arrive…tomorrow.
The big question is also the small question, isn’t it?
I tell you this big story, to answer your big question with a small one: would you like to skip rocks with me across the small lake we have been gazing at? You may pause and ask me why? What is the point? And I will simply say, "Because, I would like to." You may ask me why I like it? I may explain it’s the way the water spreads out in extended ovals, counting the bounces and wondering if I could beat my latest record, the way the geese fly away when they hear the splash, or the cool of the water on my hands as I search for the perfect rock.
I may tell you it reminds me of a memory I had with my father. And that every time I throw the rocks, I go back in time, next to him at that old lake, and bring him forward to this one... here with me.
I could tell you how it reminds me of magic, because the stone (like us humans) spends most of it’s life sitting, swallowed by the great weight of the mystery of the water of life, until something greater than itself comes along with an intention and a power that it does not have, and, for a moment, helps it dance upon the waters of life, light as a feather.
I could continue to explain until we have uncovered every reason an old man, and a young boy would want to skip rocks, and even then, we still would not be sure. So we will move forward with grace, treading softly on the reality we know nothing about.
So I will ask you again, if you would like to skip rocks with me? And you may ask why? And I will simply say, “I really don’t know. It just sounds nice. And that will be enough for today… for always.”
As the boy threw his first stone, he looked up and saw a plane flying through the clouds and it made him think of the manna from heaven. He pondered the pilot, the passengers, the air traffic controllers, the stewardesses and the passengers, and realized…they all enjoyed flying. The passengers would probably never know planes the way the pilot did with his aeronautics and thermodynamics training. The pilot may never know propellers and engine functions the way the mechanics did. The air traffic controller may not know investments and marketing as the CEO did. Each one would be interacting with that plane from a different angle, a different experience, a different purpose and, still, be able to enjoy flight all the same.
He remembered the last time he flew, looking out the window as the plane lifted off the ground. He remembers pondering the speed they were moving, the temperature outside, the angle of ascension, and even knowing none of those answers, his stomach was still in joyful knots, his eyes wide as the window and his heart like a bush on fire – but never consumed.
While throwing the stone, and looking out the airplane window, the boy said to himself, “I can skip like this rock Or lift off like a plane to the sky But may the questions of life remind me I don’t have to be a pilot to fly.”
Ronnie is an artist who's ideas have launched businesses, apps, music albums, and as of late, cartoons. Visit his website here. He thinks outside the box but don't tell him that, he doesn't believe in boxes, unless you're in a movie cinema. Ronnie lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A with his wife Anna and their three boys Jack, Griffin and Maverick. See previous articles by Ronnie Herrema