Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Big Questions

There comes a time when we just stop asking ourselves The Big Questions. We just live with them and stop wondering and worrying. When I was little I used to think, on a daily basis, about the size of the universe. I probably learnt about it at school, but lying awake at night (as I usually did and still do) I would try to work out what happened at the mythical ‘end of the universe’. It really troubled me for a while, though of course the effort of worrying passed. You come to live alongside these questions, put up with them, block them out. You learn to look up at the sky at night and say “the stars are so beautiful and bright, look, I can see Orion’s Belt” without worrying about the concept of infinity. But sometimes I miss that lost wonderment (is that a word?) of being little.

After worrying about infinity, I suppose I moved onto God (let’s not go into that now) and then onto questions about ‘Development’, and the environment. The Osborne Book of Facts and Lists told me that the ozone layer had big holes in it, and that our planet could not sustain Western levels of consumption and use of resources for everyone. I asked myself, was I really happier in my centrally heated house watching TV than someone in a village in Africa with no electricity? So why was everyone around me so stressed? Hmm, The Big Questions, like ‘What to give the girl who has everything for Christmas?’ How about a job in humanitarian aid…

Of course, you also learn to live with these unanswered questions about development, and stop thinking about it too much. In any case, Big Questions seem a bit naïve. Just as your friends don’t ask you every morning over breakfast ‘but how can God exist when there is so much suffering in the world?’ my colleagues don’t ask me whether we actually think we’re doing anything beneficial here in Sudan, and whether I envisage (and believe in) a ‘developed’ South Sudan in which everyone has the right to internet access, for example. We’ve all had that conversation before and reached the dead end.

Like all good Big Questions there are no answers. Anyway, I’m too busy organising things and getting things done, and being grown up, and not wanting to appear naïve, to worry about big questions all the time. But sometimes I do miss the daily wonderment of being little.

(P.S. if that isn’t a word, it should be.)

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