[Kramfors, Sweden, November 22]. Among the smaller adventures of life is visiting the bathroom in a home where you happen to be visiting or staying as a guest. In many cases the walls are quite bare and one finds only the essential objects within its limited space. At home in Zeewolde the smallest room of our house has on one of its walls a tray that was once used in a print shop but now houses a collection of small, funny, but admittedly rather useless objects. On the opposite wall the visitor will find a few shelves with some twenty different-sized flower vases . These may come in handy to accommodate bunches of flowers of different dimensions, but even after many years of experience I still bump my head against the bottom shelf about once every three weeks.
In some toilets I discover books or magazines, or a booklet with sodokus or crossword puzzles. Sometimes the walls are almost totally covered with pictures or portraits of family members, or one finds a shelf with a collection of KLM miniature houses. In the toilet in the home of my son in Sweden, where I am staying since two days, I have the opportunity to study a framed poster that depicts the fifty common insects in Sweden (among them a few that I would hate to encounter). While seated I look straight ahead at a piece of paper in A4 format that contains a host of different questions in small lettering. The questions are in English. Why are there ants? Why are ducks called ducks? Why do testicles move? Why are there no dinosaur ghosts? Why are there male and female bikes? Why do whales jump? Why etc. This is just a random selection of the host of questions that one can read if one’s eyesight is adequate.
Most of these questions, which I have been trying to decipher already a few times, are nonsensical. Yet they inspire me towards a few philosophical thoughts. For we are constantly surrounded by questions about how?, what? and why? It does not take us too much trouble to find answers to many of these questions. Or just a few moments of googling is all we nowadays need to do. Yesterday my son explained a feature of my smart phone to me that I had not yet discovered: Siri. I had no idea about this facility that allows me to get an instant answer to many questions. Finding answers to other questions may at times require much more effort. Yet, we should be able to get many answers, if we were just willing to invest enough time and/or possess the appropriate tools.
In the sphere of religion and worldview many questions will remain unanswered—that is, if we expect ready-made scientific answers that can be proven by the use of logic and are verifiable through the use of our senses. Confronted with the deepest questions of our existence, we must be content with the answers of faith when it concerns life’s fundamental why-questions.
There is another sphere where a ready-made logical approach will not satisfy. I am thinking specifically about the concept of ‘family.’ What exactly produces the feeling in us that is associated with the concept of ‘family’? What causes our desire to regularly see those with whom we are family-related? And why is it so special so see your grandchildren when you have not seen them for a while, because they live far away?
I am currently enjoying the company of my two little granddaughters. Why are these two small girls, of three and a half and seven years respectively, so special—and so different from all other small children I happen to meet? It is not because they never argue with each other and are never even a little obnoxious. It is not because they are better and smarter in everything than all other children of their age. And yet . . .
So, why are grandchildren so special? This question is not among the many why-questions I have been contemplating during my visits to the smallest room of this house. In fact, I would not know how to answer it. But who cares? These kids simply are very special. That’s all that matters.