“Never lose a holy curiosity,” urged Albert Einstein. I like that thought and the posture of humility and awe it inspires in the face of existence. I sat today in the back seat of a car with a budding astrophysicist talking about string theory and dark energy and dark matter—these potential hiding places of the divine in the expanding universe, the location where God and his holy angels may well conceal all their mass for all we know or can observe. I smiled, thinking of Annie Dillard’s statement that since Heisenberg, many physicists now are “a bunch of wild-eyed, raving mystics.” A holy curiosity: an affirmation that life is mysterious, and that the mystery is wonderful and the quest of questioning is fruitful even if answers are not found.
One question that has rolled around my soul for years and which brings me pleasure to wonder at came to me one Memorial Day in a cemetery in Provo. My wife was pregnant with our first child, and I was full of eager anticipation. We were there to visit her grandfather who had fairly recently passed away. We watched a young girl in the distance running with flowers. There’s something about a young girl running. A series of fragmented thoughts came to me: “Do they mingle—the spirit worlds? I can’t wait to have a daughter running through a graveyard toward a grandfather she never knew in this life. But knew. And will.” I wondered if my yet-unborn daughter knew my wife’s grandfather—if Bri was tenderly tutoring Lydia about the beauty of mortality. I knew—or sensed, at least—that she knew me and was somehow aware of my life, that that veil was somewhat thin. She had visited me in a dream when I was fifteen and charged me with a sense of expectation of the loveliness of a future fatherhood. And I knew what Brigham taught about the postmortal spirit world being right here, on earth, with those who have passed on possessing a knowledge of us and our hopes and concerns and fears. But do the worlds of spirits have communion one with the other? Do the premortal hosts have access to the postmortal ghosts? Do the as-yet-unembodied dance with the disembodied? Do they speak? Is there any embrace or a common space?
I think I’ve wondered about this in part because my own grandfather died just a few weeks before I was born. I always wished I knew him. I dreamed of him and Jesus when I was a toddler. My father was in his early twenties—a young father with one young son and a young pregnant wife—when his dad died. He still had younger siblings living at home. My mother says the grief of that loss shook my father to the core of his being. I interviewed him about it as part of a college class assignment when I was in my early twenties. It hit me then that my dad was just a boy when his father walked across the veil into a light unknown to us on this side. And that my father was human and could hurt. We wept together, and he told me that my birth was a source of healing in the wake of his father’s passing—that my existence came like a sort of phoenix rising from the ashes left by the brightness of a well-lived life. My dad told me I have my grandfather’s laugh and his sense of humor. They gave me his name as my middle name. Did I speak with him in those days between his exit from this green planet and my entrance? Is there something his in me? I like to think so. But I don’t know. We certainly knew each other when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Before it all began. We were together then, brothers. And again we will be. In the meantime, there’s room for holy curiosity.