Friday, May 18, 2012

How Common Are Epiphanies?

I went down the Center for American Progress in DC yesterday to record an interview with Rev. Welton Gaddy -- very nice and smart guy who tirelessly works not only for separation of church and state, but for a real caring, thoughtful brand of Christianity -- for his program "State of Belief." It was an interesting conversation in which he asked me interesting questions about the book and the relation between science, religion, and politics. He asked me the question I was expecting about meaningfulness for life in contemporary culture, but he also asked me about any epiphanies I had in working on the book. I had several aha moments connecting dots I never realized connected that way and so I chose one to discuss.

But the question interests me. The assumption -- and I think it is a fair one -- is that if someone spends a couple years working on a topic consistently, there are bound to be those moments of sudden insight. But not everyone has the luxury of researching a single topic and getting into the weeds where these hidden connections often remain obscured from view. Would it be a fair question, say, at a dinner party with someone new you've just met -- "tell me about the most recent epiphany you've had." (Yes, I realize that is not a question.) Are epiphanies a regular part of human life as normally lived? If someone asked you that (non)question at a dinner party would you be able to respond easily? And...what would your response be?