The End of the Universe.
Yesterday, Tiarnan, five, asked an unsettling question of his mother.
"What happens after the end of the Universe?", he enquired, with a somewhat serious voice. It clearly bothered him.
Now, his mother, Syahidah is an artist, not a cosmologist, so she didn't really have any ready or satisfying answers. However, his question surprised her for another reason altogether: for she, too, had asked the very same question, as a child of much the same age as Tiarnan. It was almost as if the query was embedded in her DNA and passed on to him, marked "Unanswered concern", for the next generation to solve.
The big question here is why does a five year old ask such a question? We have no TV in the house, only DVDs. He has not been exposed to any programmes on cosmology or astronomy. This question emerges from his own thought, therefore. He has clearly looked at the world and come to the conclusion that, one day, it would end. Then, having so concluded that even the Universe must die one day, he asked the next question: what would follow the death of the Universe?
These seem rather deep and troubling questions for a mere five year old to be asking. At times, it seems that the littlest people have the biggest thoughts, because they trouble themselves to ask the questions, that adults have long ago stopped thinking about. Perhaps it is because children are inexperienced enough to think that, by asking such questions, they might readily find answers, whereas adults develop an instinct for identifying questions that are, to them, unanswerable and so don't even ask them in the first place. All in all, it makes young children, sometimes, more interesting company, than adults - for they have tendency to ask questions that adults would not. Sometimes, even more interestingly, they answer them.
I shall have a chat with Tiarnan about the Universe and try to give him some understanding of the scale of it, the age of it and how much time there is yet to come. I have a feeling though that even these vast spans of time, will not reassure him about his essential point: the Universe, like all that lives, is mortal.
It seems that Tiarnan is not just concerned with death, but with the biggest Death of all - the end of everything. What a big concern, for so little a boy. I am led to wonder if he is going to make a lifelong habit of such questions. I wonder, further, whether he will make a career of answering them.