Dinner Table Conversations: Philosophy, Physics & Religion

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Sometimes the questions make me swallow hard.

It’s a way for me to process them before I attempt to answer.

Being a dad is not the easiest job I’ve ever had.

That was working at Burger King when I was 16.

Tonight started off with politics.

We discussed vice presidents and their influence over the years.

I learned that the office of vice president was intentionally gutted. So we spent some time talking about what life would be like if the opposition candidate who lost the race became the vice president.

It was a fun conversation, but the kids unilaterally agreed that leadership teams with opposing viewpoints would not work.

As an adult with actual life experience, I tend to agree with them.

At some point we transitioned to filibusters and the effectiveness, previously, on the passage of laws in our country.

In between, we ate our pork chops, green beans, fingerling potatoes and spinach salad, a specialty of my wife’s that I have always loved.

Then my daughter piped up.

“Dad, if the Bible was written by lots of different people over time, how do we know it’s all true?”

These are those moments that you love and dread as a parent. Life is made of these moments, and you live with the knowledge that you are steering your child’s mind like you steer a car.

I’m not going to go into my answer, because it will offend one or the other of you. Ask my kids someday. My hope is that they’ve thought through it on their own enough to really share their answer with conviction.

Just about the time I was finishing up my green beans and starting in on my salad in earnest, another child asked another tough one.

“What does the Bible say about gays?”

There is always a lot of weight on these questions. It’s more than preserving a belief system, more than passing on your own ideals.

This is how your child will see and understand other people. This is how they will judge the words of your mouth with the actions of your heart.

For anyone who says this is easy, I envy you. I do not believe you, but I envy your enthusiasm for delusion.

Going from the Biblical exegesis of homosexuality to the speculative physics of the “Big Crunch”  in the matter of a few remaining bites of pork chop swiped through small puddles of Greek feta dressing, is disconcerting and stressful.

But I’ll take it any day over questions about how to right the grounded ship of modern media and other aspects of my day job.

As a writer, I know I have the ability to make my kids sound spectacularly smart and perhaps better than they actually are.

The truth is, they are normal kids. They are messy, they don’t listen, they argue and talk back. They make bad decisions, and then I ground them, and then they go out and do it again.

We are all learning grace.

But night after night, they absolutely astound me with their fearlessness in trying to figure out this life.

Dinner table conversations are precious to me. I learned more in life from my father’s stories as we sat around the table through dinner and then through tea, always questioning, always wondering something new about this life we live.

It is an absolute honor to be the person they come home to, the person to whom they put up all the lessons learned each day as a final test.

It’s actually an awesome authority.

And often as not, I have to simply tell them I don’t know the answer.

I am not a physicist. I’m not a theoretical scientist. I haven’t truly studied theology, I’m terrible at math, and politics gives me hives.

For the next few years though, I am all of those to my children. And more than that, I have the ability to shape their interests in these things.

And so I take the two-hour trip home to prepare like a contestant on Jeopardy. I study, I read, I think about how I would answer certain questions.

Yet night after night I’m surprised, and I learn, and I realize that my life, my continuing education is completely wrapped up in their lives.

We did not decide anything tonight. If anything, we provided more fodder for the fires of our imaginations, for their dreams.

And I will go to work tomorrow and then look forward to my train ride and dinner with some fine intellectual companions.

I am a lucky man.




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