WHY ARE WE HERE?  WHAT’S OUR PURPOSE?  WHAT’S THE POINT? 

Great questions!  We’re glad you asked.  Besides getting to know Why, gettingtoknowwhy.com is here for the purpose of archiving and exhibiting the fruit of several writing projects, the focal point of which is Getting to Know Why: a monthly column that considers the great questions of meaning by agonizing over the life of yours truly, “Dr. Why.”  The primary author/editor of the series is my long-time mentor and friend, “Dr. X”; but I also contribute quite a lot.  Getting to Know Why is first published in the Norton-Lakeshore Examiner under the direction of visionary editor Cynthia Price before it is republished here with my assistance.

Unlike most blogs and newspaper columns, Getting to Know Why is a serial: each installment builds on the one that precedes it and leads into the one that follows it.  Maybe that’s the only reason Editor Price classes it with works by Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Herman Melville.  In any event, because it’s a serial, Getting to Know Why installments are best read in the order in which they appeared, and they’re numbered for just this reason.  If you’re a newcomer trying to decide whether Getting to Know Why is worth getting to know, however, then I recommend you start with installments #2 and #3.  You can go back to #1 later if you decide you’re interested. Continue reading

#1: Introduction
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* Why, it’s for you! *

Greetings from Firenze, Italy—also known as “Florence.” I’m in a café drinking cappuccino at the moment. It might seem strangely forward of me to start off reporting on my circumstances like this, as we don’t yet know each other; but since this is to be the first in a series of columns, and since you are my target audience, I hope to change that. So please allow me to introduce myself: I’m Dr. X.

Continue reading

#2: Introduction Continued
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* For Our Parents *

Warm groeten from Amsterdam.  I’m in town for a conference—always a good excuse to have some fun.  I enjoyed dinner, conversation, and a tour all at the same time last night on one of the city’s many canal-boat restaurants.  The boat was motorized, but my hosts said that it used to be drawn through these very canals by horses.  Gezellig!

If you read last month’s installment, you know that I’m “Dr. X” and that this is a sort of critical intellectual biography of my friend and dialogue partner, “Dr. Why.”  Rather than bore you with an orderly procession of all the significant moments in Why’s life, however, I’ll share something of his current intellectual position and then zig back and zag forth from that in subsequent installments.  I will thereby prepare the ground from which to examine some of Why’s other—shall we say, more interesting—ideas. Continue reading

#3: The Dead-Head-Eve Scenario
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* For The Dead *

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HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY TO THE DEAD! (Click to view image credits.)

Hello everyone.  I’m “Dr. X,” and you’re reading the third installment of a serial biography I’m writing about my good friend and dialogue partner “Dr. Why,” who has some very interesting things to say about science, religion, and their relations—among other things.  Why surprised us with a visit last time, and I’m pleased to report that he’s returned once again to continue our conversation.

We were discussing the importance of founding hypotheses when we concluded our last installment.  Why had illustrated his belief that the historical sciences reason in circles against interventionist theism by pointing out that uniformitarian geological methods assume rather than prove that no God has intervened in Earth history.

Welcome back, Dr. Why.  Is that a fair synopsis?

Y:  Glad to be back, Dr. X.  Fair enough, except what I last remember is discovering the gender-bending implications of your suggestion that creationists can’t think male nipples were useless back in Eden.  Continue reading

#4: Critique of the Dead-Head-Eve Scenario
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* For Rent: To rent a GTKW dedication line, please contact Dr. X.*

If you’ve never joined us before, welcome.  If you have joined us before, welcome back.  I’m “Dr. X,” and the subject and star of this column is my good friend and fellow traveler, “Dr. Why,” who has many very interesting ideas to share with us.

Why has been telling me for years that inquiry of all sorts builds on “founding hypotheses” that may always be doubted and may often be replaced, sometimes with grandly surprising results—conceivably even creationist results.  So last time—challenged by me to render belief in Adam and Eve “even remotely plausible” while accommodating the historical sciences—Why donned his comedian hat and shared an entertaining rendition of the so-called Fall-of-Man story of Genesis 3.  By interpreting the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as an hallucinogenic mushroom, Why created a scenario showing that the experience of any one person—no matter how much science it includes—is compatible with the hypothesis that s/he’s really Eve dying of a drug overdose in Eden. Continue reading

#5: Caricature of Young-Earth Creationism
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* For Ann Reid and Eugenie Scott *

Hello everyone.  I’m “Dr. X,” editor and principal author of this rather unorthodox biography you’re reading about my friend and colleague, “Dr. Why.”  I wrote this paragraph while relaxing in an evergreen-forest campground dotted with electrical boxes disguised as giant  Christmas mushrooms.  Given Why’s appeal to psychoactive fungi in his comedic rendition of the “Fall of Man” story two conversations ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if I really am Eve dying of an overdose in Eden!

(Click to read Dr. Why’s comedic rendition of the “Fall of Man” story in GTKW #3!)

We’ve been recounting Why’s past to explicate his present thinking on science and religion—a topic about which he has some valuable things to say.  Why is unavailable at the moment, however, so I’ve decided to introduce you to an old friend from his formative years, nicknamed Yec.  Why’s dealings with Yec were mostly extra-curricular, as Yec was expelled from Why’s school when they were both quite young.  The school said the expulsion was justified by Yec’s irrepressible tendency to blurt out ridiculous nonsense in class, and the government concurred with a statement that cited constitutional limits on free speech.  But Yec’s supporters attributed it to a sort of bigotry inspired by Yec’s gross deformities and bizarre mannerisms.  And Yec really is grossly deformed, so I won’t ask you to shake its hand during this introduction, only to stare at it long enough to get a sense of what we’re talking about.  Yec’s full name, after all, is young-Earth creationism. Continue reading

#6: On Miracles in Young-Earth-Creationist Method
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* For John Whitmore *

Back in the Precambrian several thousand years ago, coveting culinary adventures beyond the provisions of Paradise and talked by a walking snake into eating the only fruit God strenuously warned them against, our Greatest Great-Grandparents traded everlasting nudist bliss—theirs and ours—for leathers and harsh discipline by a neophyte Grim Reaper, who, mere generations later, in a Flood higher than Everest and a Grave deeper than Grand Canyon, overzealously drowned and then buried everything that breathed save the fortunate residents of a floating zoo called Ark.  Or so we heard last time from an old friend of my usual guest.

Overzealous, Neophyte Grim Reaper

Continue reading

#13: Dr. X’s First Encounter with Why, Part 1
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*For Pat McManus*

 I really hope you’ll lend me your ears today, dear readers.  I can promise to repay you by earning your interest, as I’ve a memory that will grow fonder if you fondle it: a memory of my first meeting with the fit subject of this serial, my dear friend and colleague, the hefty-yet-quick—the Olympic—Dr. Why.

I’d like to keep the details of when and where to myself, so I’ll start like this: Once upon a time . . .

I was reclining on the chaise longue in my comfortable office library, on a great campus of a greater university in the middle of everywhere the modern Academy can take you.  The term was done, the students were home, and my staff was gone at last.  I had no task at hand, no plans afoot, neither gleaming typewriter nor blinking computer in sight, and only nothing on my mind.  It was a rare and precious and consummate moment.  I hoped at heart to keep it and resolved to try as I relaxed there—on my long chair, in the great midst—into nix . . . .

But then, as if possessed, my office door spoke to me:

“Knock, knock,” it joked. Continue reading

#17: Grandma and The King
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* For Grandma and The King *

When the man on the radio announced the bad news, my mother, who had been inducting me into The King’s biggest-fan club ever since I was old enough to listen, paused a moment from her work in the kitchen to wipe my face and tell me sadly that he was gone for good.  I was impressed by my mother’s sadness, so I quietly asked questions and felt distressed by what I understood.  And when Grandma came over for dessert that evening, I paused in the middle of an ice-cream headache to tell her that The King was now with Jesus. Continue reading

#18: On Lima Beans
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gtkw 18 banner 90 percent* For Ye Royal Piglets *

Boiled mixed vegetables: flaccid wax beans, puckered peas, rubbery carrots, passable corn, and just-plain-evil Lima beans.

For all I know, it really is true that Lima beans (properly pronounced Leemah beans) arrived in Europe back in the mid-16th century as a gift sent to the Dutch Royal Family by a notoriously prodigal, second-born usurper of a rightful child-king of Peru.  I doubt that’s true, but if it is, I know why the kid sent them. Continue reading

#19: Out Fishing
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*For Dad*

God knows what we had to do to get them sometimes, but we tried hard nonetheless.  After sleepy, rushed breakfasts on foggy, blue-moonlit mornings and dark, rain-clouded mornings and even mornings when we only hoped the rain would pass, slicing in an aluminum craft toward a far shore through insect-rippled glass or battering along atop rolling, broad chop full of weeds and cold and God knows what: we two boys and Dad, a bag of Mom’s sandwiches, three tackle boxes, four rods and a bucket of live bait, out fishing. Continue reading

#22: All I Wanted for My Birthday, Part 2
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*For Mom*

(Continued from #21)

I realized eventually that I was probably being unreasonable.  Her pleading commands and exasperated gape said it clearly.  Her staunch inflexibility modeled it perfectly.  But we were nonetheless deep into a screaming fit before I got the point: You can’t resist this like vegetables, protest it like Sunday mornings, avoid it like hot ovens, or expel it like shit: Aging is unstoppable as sleeping. Continue reading

#23: For the Record
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* For the record *

‘Dr. X’:  Your story has one thing wrong—but it really doesn’t matter much.  I have a photo album that shows that your 4th birthday cake was a Mickey Mouse cake….  But oh well, so stories go.  Did you REALLY ask for a spanking?!?!   

                                         -Dr. Why’s Mother, Dec. 2016 Continue reading

#24: Do You Want Children? by Dr. Why
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* For the Children *

In this installment, Dr. Why shares some of the back story to #15: “Last Valentine’s Day.”  Enjoy!                             

-Dr. X

We’d been having such a good time together, and I was so thoroughly enamored with her, that I wanted to ask her some serious questions (despite having only just met her).  I decided to jump right in.

“Do you want children?” I began. Continue reading

#25: The Good Friend’s Goodbye
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*For One Who Came Back*

In memory of Sam I and Sam Too

I’ve been told that kids who grow up in cities love their urban landscapes as much as any kid loves whatever landscape he or she calls home.

But I’ve never believed it.

I grew up on an acre of frequently dandelioned lawn stamped into a small woods and adjoining grassy field, bordered by two adjoining rivers and a two-lane road, all surrounded by even more woods and grassy fields stamped here and there by other lawns and cut by the long stretches of the two rivers before it spread out into farmlands and then (gasp) cities.  The best thing about our land (besides the nearby fishing holes, I mean, of course), is that the rivers would overflow their banks each spring and roar around the house and transform our lawn (which was usually reserved for biking, go-carting, dandelion breeding, and occasional mowing) into a smooth, green pond just right for canoeing.

Dad put a pump in the basement and made us stay clear of the rivers when they were in full flood.  He feared us getting sick or electrocuted in the wet or swept under a flooded bridge and drowned.  But when the floodwaters receded somewhat, we all took advantage of the slightly boiling, quick brown flow that smoothed the bouldered rapids so we could glide our canoes through them and shoot too fast a few miles downstream.

It was on one of those trips that I met Sam.

He was floating belly down on the surface of the flood, head low, limbs outstretched, fingers spread, drifting alongside in the current almost keeping pace with us.  I feared that he was drowning, but Dad said no.  But he looked so out of place atop the water like that, so comically out of place, that I thought to save him anyway.  So I lifted him up on the flat of my paddle and slid him to safety on the floor of our canoe.

He was sorta cute in a funny sort of way, so everybody loved him and Dad said we could keep him.  When we got home, Mom got a round ceramic pot out for him that was at least ten times his size, and we put him in it with water and a rock, a bit of gravel and some sand, and we fed him little balls of meat on toothpicks and laughed as he ate them.

And everyone was happy, especially Sam.  He had a cozy palace to himself, neatly landscaped in the style of his previous home but with a high, round wall and a wide, dry moat to keep him safe from toothy fish and pinching crabs; he was safe from the dirty, cold water that could have swept him down and drowned him (from which I had saved him); and we fed him all the best food for free: little cubes of cheese, fresh ground beef, and even crisp bacon.  The first time we brought him live minnows he snuck out slowly from behind his rock and stabbed his head out and snagged them like a collie snags a Frisbee from midair, scattering silvery scales about as he mauled them into gruesome chunks and gulped them down.  We could hardly get enough of watching that!  But later he got full and lazy and lost his appetite, and then he let the minnows die by themselves before he ate them, if he did, and that got boring fast.

And so it went through many months, until one night it got too cold in the breezeway where Sam lived and he froze up in the ice.  Mom was able to thaw him out, so he was fine.  But not the next time.  The next time it happened, Mom had to send us to the river with him.  We should have taken better care of him, she said.  And as we stood there praying and paying our last respects, we were pretty sorry about it.

But that summer we found someone else swimming in the river, so we caught him in a net and brought him home and put him in Sam’s old ceramic pot.  We missed Sam a lot, so we named this new friend Sam too.

But after just a few, happy days, Mom put an end to it: “You have to take Sam II back home,” she said.  We protested that his home was with us now and that we loved him.  But Mom said that sometimes, if you truly love someone, you have to let them go.  We cried a lot and argued that Sam Too was our good friend.  But Mom said he was only really our friend if he came back on his own.

So we let him go later that day just where we had found him.  He waved hard with all four hands even before we put him in the water, so we waved and called after him as he swam hard away, saying we hoped he would please come back on his own to be our good friend again, only this time really.

We visited that spot in the river many times that summer, wondering if Sam Too had ever been our friend at all, worrying that he had starved or gotten eaten or was swept downstream and drowned or caught his death of cold in the dirty water.  We urged him to come home with us each time we dropped by, and we promised to take even better care of him and to give him even better things to eat and an even bigger rock in an even bigger castle, if he wanted.

But we also wished him well and swore we loved him as good friends should even if he never did come back.  And though we hoped our words would make him want to come back, we also really meant them.  And I still do:

Love and all the best to you Too.

(To be continued.)

To rent a dedication line or to comment, write to Dr. X at contactdr.x@gmail.com or to Dr. Why at contact.dr.why@gmail.com.

All rights retained by the authors.