When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t exactly “looking for God” or anything. I mean, I was the guy who wrote, “Man makes God in his own image” in his Psychology journal (and thought it was original) and got an A from a professor who was fired for chewing betel nuts. But then the hospital called and said, “Your father’s dead.” And in some inexpressible way (my fired professor would have cited Freud) that seemed to rip away the false undergirdings I hadn’t even known were there, and to lay the groundwork for an advanced state of “not exactly looking…”
Then there was this girl (there’s always “this girl,” right?). You know, The One, the one you’re going “to spend the rest of your life with.” Until she goes off to spend the rest of your life with someone else.
So I wasn’t exactly “looking for God” or anything,
Just someone who wouldn’t leave.
Still, it came as a surprise to me when my optimism developed a stigmatism. I mean, it was like all of a sudden I realized everything wasn’t getting better with the world. Or with me. And for the first time in my life I wasn’t sure what the world should do.
I mean, not only didn’t we have “the answer.” We didn’t even know what the question was.
“Vanity. All is vanity and chasing after wind,” said the wise man. (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
Hell. Well this is hell, said the fool.
I heard some philosopher’d said that everyone’s heart is a vacuum. “Well, if that’s so,” I thought, “Mine must have a busted dust filter, because it feels like it’s sucking up all the dirt in the world.”
And so I became a pessimist. It wasn’t my natural state, but I turned to be really good at it. I wrote weird paeans to Pessimism like this one:
Nothing is the total that I’ve come to know of late
My heart it lies awanting in a rotting apple crate
Outside of pets and debtors there is ne’er a one can say
That he will be my champion when comes that final day
So get yourself a garden, friend, and teach it how to grow
And if you’re very lucky then it will’na turn and go.
I didn’t know exactly what I meant, but I liked the way it sounded–with an appropriately depressed sort of liking–especially the little Scottish touches.
And then for a while I got into being a “seeker of truth.” And one of my favorite things was what some yogi guy said: “You must always be content to be a seeker, and never be so audacious as to presume you have actually found the Truth.”
It sounded so deep.
But then I got to thinking, “What if the Truth actually did come up to me and tap me on the shoulder one day, and say, “Well, here I am.” I’d probably just have replied, “Shh, go away, can’t you see I’m busy seeking you?”
And I saw that the wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet the same thing happens to all in the end. So how was I more wise? And I said in my heart that even wisdom is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 2:14)
Still, I had to look at least, to see if I could see what I could see.
“And so I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13)
And so it began.
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