Where Y'all From?

christian faith culture education Oct 23, 2021

Having resided in a few regions of the United States, I've observed people respond to "Where are you from" -- with all its derivatives -- differently.

I don't mean their answers vary, but that their responses are distinct.

In the South (not to be confused with the Southwest), the question cues a sweet grin, slow drawl, and slight sigh accompanied by a negligible gesture beckoning one to pull up a chair. "Let me pour you a glass of sweet tea (as if there's any other kind), and let's sit a spell while I tell you all about it." If at the end of the family biographical account your host returns the inquiry and you answer with, for example, "Oregon," be forewarned. You'll be met with eyes making an aged Basset Hound appear absolutely ecstatic, a gentle pat on your hand, and another sigh exhaling a just-perceptible, "Bless your heart."

Texas is another tale. I suspect because Texas was once its own country -- however short lived -- the gene pool was sufficiently altered to pass on the belief other states were allowed to join it rather than the other way around. Ask a native Texan, "Where y'all from?" and no matter what state they're currently living in and how long they've been registered to vote there, you'll encounter a response of such energy it'll make a two-year-old Labrador Retriever chasing a frisbee look lethargic. "Texas!" bellows out with such a confusing combination of fierceness and enthusiasm it's hard to discern whether you've just been shot in the stomach or slapped on the back. For a moment you forget other states, yes, even other countries, exist. Where else would one be from, after all?!

Then there's the Midwest. (I can write this as a Kansas girl.) Maybe it's because folks were so busy plowing fields and planting hedge rows and herding cattle that they had no energy left to think about, much less act on, instilling or exporting regional ego. Ask a Midwesterner "Where you from," and you'll witness the greatest Pug-like transformation possible. Eyes droop, extensive wrinkles appear, and the head sinks into the shoulders so deeply you'll wonder if there really was a neck there a moment earlier. A "flyover" state name spills from the downturned mouth with such melancholy you immediately change the subject for fear the responder will keel over, unable to sustain any longer the weight of their misfortune. Someone in the Midwest Public Relations department failed miserably! (Maybe they were really a Texas transplant!)

It's amazing how our origins, whether we revel in or run from them, shape us.

And as significant as our individual provenances are, even more so is what we believe about our beginnings as a species.

About 2,500 years ago a popular philosopher, Anaximander, theorized life began in the seas and people evolved from animals. Darwin wasn't as original as we've been led to believe. The modern debate about origins tends to center on fossil finds and sedimentary layers. While these are important, our narrow focus leaves numerous other questions not only unanswered but even unasked. So I shall present a few for pondering.

Was it only people and animals and plant life that evolved or did the planet? Did it start as a speck and grow to its current size?

Did earth always have an axis tilt between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees? Did it always rotate on a (approximately) 24 hour cycle? Did it always revolve around the sun? Did it have a different orbital path?

Was the moon always in earth's gravitational pull?

Did our solar system evolve? How much time did it take for the Milky Way to become ordered in its current structure?

On a planet of 196.94 million square miles, what are the odds that just enough "people" evolved at the same rate within a near enough geographical distance to be able to procreate?

Why did people develop a conscience? Surely it would be easier to live without one.

If people evolved at a consistent enough rate physically to maintain enough uniformity to be able to reproduce and create societies, why didn't beliefs about right & wrong evolve to be the same? How much bloodshed has been spent throughout recorded history over disagreements about morality?

Why did humanity evolve with an innate and universal need for meaning? The corporate and individual search for "the meaning of life" has created unfathomable sorrow. Could it not be argued this is more of a burden than a blessing?

And of what value has been the persistent human tendency to consider -- whether to accept or reject -- the possibility of "divine" beings which are involved with life on earth? Surely there's enough within the realm of our five senses to contend with. Why add to our struggles with questions about other dimensions?

And yet...

The question of "Where are y'all from" isn't entirely erasable from our minds, no matter how hard we rub.

Someone proclaims, "There's so much horror in the world, I can't believe there's a God." And yet they fail to answer the logical follow-up question:

"How does the absence of God explain the presence of pain?"

Perhaps we focus so earnestly on examining fossilized bone fragments in the dirt to avoid answering the questions a gaze into the sky prompts. Perhaps we measure millimeters of rocks to ignore the inquiries billions of stars present. Perhaps we study skulls to avoid searching souls -- ours and others.

What we believe about where we're from matters.



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