It isn’t there now

Family photo of children on bicycles - It isn't there nowIt isn’t there now, but there used to be a poster at my local station, advertising an airline:

You are here
Why? 

The question seemed worth an answer.  My first response was because I live here.  But, looking anew at the poster every evening on my way home, I realised that the answer depended on what it meant by here.  My first thought had been that here was the general locality – perhaps half a mile or a mile’s radius from the station.  My second thought was that here might be more narrowly defined – the station, or even just its eastbound platform.  Taking that as the meaning, the answer had to do with my being on my way home from work (and where I worked and where I live).

Not until later did it occur to me that here might be taken as having wider reference: why I am I here, in this world.  (There seems something significant in this being the last of the three interpretations to occur to me.)  The answer to that final interpretation, it seemed to me – as I jostled through the crowd towards the stairs, the ticket barrier and the street – had to do with my parents having sex on a certain date.  If my mental arithmetic is correct, it was in October 1945.  Since my father had been a prisoner of war, the answer to why I am I here, in this world can be extended from the sexual act itself to something about the course of the Second World War.  It might take in the timing of when the American army reached Bavaria, and how quickly they repatriated prisoners of war.  The Soviet victories at Stalingrad and Kursk paved the way to my birth… and to my 1950s upbringing, which has much to do with the nature of the I the new born babe was destined to become.

It was only in the calm of a side street that I realised that many people would give a very different answer to why I am I here, in this world.  Quite a lot would seek an answer in the presumed purposes of their deity.  My answer, rooted in sex, would seem – by their standards – non-religious.  The more I thought about it, the question of whether my sexual answer was non-religious depends on what one’s religion makes of sex.  In Christian mythology, sex is presented as a rather mucky add-on to the process of divine creation.  In Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) myth, it is the engine that drives the process of divine creation.  I know which of those makes more sense to me.  Maybe it depends on how one defines the phrase divine creation.  Is it a single act at the first time – something that set the universe in motion?  Or is it a continuing process – something ongoing, that is still with us?  Is deity akin to someone who winds up a clock and then lets it run?  Or is deity constantly encountered in the world?  If the latter, sex certainly seems to be the mechanism through which divine creation takes place.