Tuesday, December 21, 2010

That is the question

I can't wait to see what kinds of questions Andrew asks when he starts talking. Right now, he's mostly saying things like "Da! Da! De!" and the odd "Guh!" and "Ba!" But he says them enthusiastically and with a great deal of conviction, so you can tell that the wheels are turning in there. Probably he'll bust out with some sort of jaw-dropping question one of these days that will have me floundering around for an answer, any answer.

William, of course, does this sort of thing all the time these days. The other day, he asked me me if we would understand everything about God when we get to heaven. I opened my eyes very wide and thought, "Wow. How do I even begin to think about that, let alone respond to that?" I ended up saying something limp about the mystery of faith, which didn't even satisfy me. I don't particularly like it when someone uses that as as response to one of my eschatological or teleological questions, but I have more or less accepted that, well, that's about all we can know at this point.

A few days ago, William asked me another question that strained my abilities: "What comes after outer space?"

I stuttered for a few moments, unsure of how to respond. I mean, the truth of the matter is, I have no earthly idea (no pun intended). I finally said, "Well. I don't know, William. I presume that outer space just goes on and on forever, but I don't know for sure."

This led him to begin asking questions about infinity. I tried to explain that infinity is more of a concept than an actual number. Which is a weak answer, I know. But theoretical mathematics, as a general rule, is not my area of expertise. Then, tonight I had the experience of searching for "googol" on Google. (How meta is that?) William and I know now that "googol" is the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s.

Of course, I was all satisified just to learn that, and William had to go and ask "Well, what's the number after that?"

"Um, googol and one?" I suggested. (That is right, isn't it?)

The good news is that William does ask this kind of question. Those of you who know me in person have probably heard me complain about people who have absolutely no intellectual curiosity whatsoever. Intellectual curiosity is a trait that I value a great deal. I'm not saying that I expect people to just know certain things but I like it when people want to learn more. And I especially like it when people ask questions to which they don't already know the answers. (Sorry, lawyers out there.) So it pleases me that my son wants to learn more. It challenges me, too. I mean, I can't think of a single other reason that I would have been Googling googol, but now I know. I'm not sure if that makes me a better person--probably not--but hey, at least I'm learning something new.

Side note: I wonder if I asked this kind of question when I was a child. I don't remember asking questions that had my parents scratching their heads as they tried to come up with a reasonable answer, but perhaps I did. Mom, Dad, want to weigh in?


Anonymous said...

William and I were talking about "googol" yesterday after baking Christmans cookies. I had forgotten exactly what "googol" meant, but he informed me that it is 1 followed by 100 zeros. Isn't there also a "googolplex" or am I dreaming that one up?

natalie said...

I'm sure you did ask a million questions, probably like this. I asked my folks the other day if I talked nonstop, all day, every day, all the time, with the talking never ending like our Critter does, and Daddy said, "yes, and you still haven't stopped." That's not entirely true, of course, but I'm sure the apple didn't fall far from the tree in either of our cases!

Anonymous said...

I got curious and binged(not googled) "googolplex". ;) It's the sencond largest number with a name - the number one followed by a googol of zeros or 1 followed by 10,100 zeros.
Even larger is a "googolplexian" which is a 1 followed by a googolplex of zeros!

Dee Dee