Today’s guest post comes from Hailey Kaufman who is writing from Thailand. Hailey is a student at Webster University, where she studies philosophy, biology, and religious studies. She works as a writer, a cartoonist, and a first-year-of-college booster. Hailey’s relationship with Sophia illuminates a wisdom that preserves and inspires. So here’s Hailey and her friend Sophia giving us wisdom, love …and lint by the spoonful…
Sophia makes herself present in my life to the extent that her name will appear on my college degree (a BA in philosophy). She weasels her way into my mundane moments, too, always asking me the hardest questions and leaving me hyper-focused on answering them, sometimes in a debilitating way. The way people talk to me sometimes, I wonder if she gets a particular kick out of poking at me while largely leaving others alone.
While I’m personifying Sophia like the other writers here, it’s likely that I conceptualize her a bit differently. Having been an atheist since high school, my understanding of logos, of wisdom and truth, is not a Biblical one.
But Sophia never left me when I renounced my belief in God. In fact, I think that’s when she found me. Setting the idea of God aside was liberating. It was as if my image of the world had been shrouded by information that had never really helped me, but of which I never felt free to let go. When I looked in the mirror and made that decision, I felt my mind running freer, my air clear and my floor swept. I was ready to consider anything.
This blank slate left me to figure out what is objective and what is subjective in this world. What are our best tools for determining what’s real? If there’s no final word on morality, how can humankind ever move beyond debating about it? Where am I finding solace despite no guardian watching over me? Who among the fallible is worthy of being a role model? Will death hurt; will it be scary, or boring; will it be joyful? Or will it be none of these things?
Many people tell me these kinds of questions scare them, but for some reason they never struck me that way. They’re like little puzzles, the handheld wooden kind that at first glance looks like it has a simple answer, but the more you stare and pull at it, the more vacuous it seems.
Still, with little steps of progress come bouts of inspiration. Sophia reminds me of that when she gives me insight. Her hints keep me feeling and twisting, digging deeper. What I found is that science offers a wealth of information in response to these questions, more than it is usually given credit for.
Sophia’s gift, when you develop a relationship with her, is that she never leaves you alone. She has all the audacity of a pioneer with the skeptical reservations of a scientist in the lab. When I picture her, I see a great, black void full of unfathomably large and complex things, glowing with vibrant colors and destructive characters. I see particles colliding and creatures decaying into new life, and I feel a tremendous balance, a safety in knowing that even if no one is watching out for me, even if I’m destined for hell, it’s all going to be okay. The cosmos will take care of itself, and we’ll all be okay. That I have the tools with which to learn about her infinitude and subtlety is reason enough to sit, be, smile, and embrace everything that makes this moment possible.
That sense of calm validated by numbers is what gets me up every day. I want to share Sophia with everyone I can, including you, but I can only do that if you know you have to look for her. If you peer into dark corners and reach for her hand, she’ll take you to new places. It’s exhausting at times, but the reward is a kind of awe that, if I could describe it, wouldn’t be worth searching for.