Defining the profound

Once, Stephen Colbert asked scientist David Christian about the meaning of life. Mr. Christian responded by talking about the theory of how human life came about. Colbert pointed out that all Mr. Christian had given him was the “how” not the “why.”  You see, the “how” is interesting and easily definiable, but not profound, like “why.” This key difference can be witnessed by comparing the question “how do you love me” with “why do you love me.”

Your partner will respond to the first question with actions. The partner loves you by giving gifts, physical affection, staying up late at night, etc. But, to respond to the second question, the partner has to go a little deeper. For example, they might say, “I love you because of that twinkle in your eye when you have an idea,” or “I love you because you have a beautiful soul.”  However, many times the why cannot be described with words. It swells up from deep within in a language not defined by linguistics.

For something to be profound, it must be transcendent, above definition. This is why the early Christians embraced the mystery of God. After all, if God is easily defined, God becomes a thing. You might scoff at this, but think about yourself as a person. You are not your politics, gender, orientation or race. Those are a part of you, but you can’t add up these elements and get you. As Rob Bell and others would argue, you are more than than the sum of your parts. There is a mystery to you that defies words, from both others and yourself. And yet, you still know yourself, albeit through a mirror dimly.

Every single word you speak is a metaphor for the profound. The profound is both a mystery and familiar.


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