I was at a party, in a student flat, surrounded by cheap beech veneer furniture and vaguely Gothic posters torn at the corners. In the kitchen Max and Alexander, tall bearded men from my genetics course, and red-haired Katy from the Biochemistry Department argued about the nature of existence, science versus God. That was always one for me, as the only practising Christian in the Genetics Department. I was in the minority, as usual, losing the argument, but as long as they weren't personally abusive I could take it. Disputation exhilarated me.
Then a new voice entered the debate, declaring that "the universe is so wonderful and spectacular that it had to have been created by something, and what was that something, if not God?"
"What started the Big Bang? Something did," I chimed in. "And whatever you choose to believe that something was, it had to have been something and I call that something God!"
"It did not have to be an intelligence that started the Big Bang," Max countered, "It was some kind of instability in whatever was there before."
"And what caused that instability?" asked the new man.
"Some combination of particles, forces, time..."
"Whatever way you look at it, something had to be there at the beginning, to cause it all to happen. There had to be a Creator."
"I don't agree..."
We were beaten, of course. There were too many scientists at that party, who believed deeply that everything had a rational explanation.
As the talk moved on to football, I smiled at my fellow believer.
"I'm Leo," he said, and lowered his voice. "And I'm studying forestry management, so I'm not much of a scientist at all, in fact! But don't tell anyone!"
His blond beard bristled with friendship and in his eyes I could see the blue of a crisp cold sky above Scandinavian forests. Most of the men I met were so much taller than I that I could not look them in the eye without developing a serious crick in the neck. Leo was compact and closer to my level. It made a refreshing change.
Leo, when we met: vibrant, enthusiastic, always rushing into things, hot-headed in his love of the environment, a campaigner, a protestor, always in the thick of passive resistance, a seeker for justice, who played squash for the University, wielding his racquet like a weapon.
Leo, now: a staid forestry manager, still dedicated to his trees and the environment but rounder, in mind and body, more authoritative but less forceful in his talk, calm in his decision-making, with a bit of a paunch, who played squash as a duty, to keep fit, to be social.
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Last amended on 10th August 1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead