Photo by Yousef Alfuhigi
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.
Having failed to find “the reason,” or rather having discovered it and lost track of it, I’d returned to L.A. It was morning, and I wanted nothing so much as to just go and wander in the mountains.
But it was still dark. So I sat in that ancient airport lounge watching the planes come in and go out, and the lights blink off and on, until Dawn finally came hesitatingly in and sat down on the runway. And then, in deference to its timidity, I suppose, Night gathered up her sleeves and went off to work in the eastern hemisphere.
It reminded me of some graffiti* I’d seen on a restroom wall:
“The meek shall inherit the earth (if that’s okay with the rest of you).”
That was how I felt: meek. Because I saw for the first time in my life that we were all just interlopers, pretending to have a purpose. And then I realized I’d been playing the most awful game: I’d gone to seek wisdom, understanding—truth. But naturally, I’d brought with me a set of requirements:
“All auditionees for the role of truth must first prove themselves to be consistent with my philosophy.”
Who else, after all, could judge for me what was true “for me?” It seemed irrefutable (or inevitable, at any rate). But then I saw the flaw:
I’d begun by reluctantly acknowledging that I didn’t know the truth (no one seeks to find a thing he already has). But by insisting that all auditionees for truth must first agree with what I already believed, I was insisting that nothing but affirmations of my own familiar thoughts be admitted.
What a horrible game.
And everyone I knew was playing it.
I got up and stuffed my hands in my pockets (I felt like the cover of an old Bob Dylan album), and went and got my little VW out of hock.
Truly the light is sweet, said the wise man,
and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun.
Yet if a man lives many years and rejoices in them all,
still let him remember the days of darkness,
for they shall be many.
And all that is to come is vanity.
*A graffito (for you grammar-Nazis)
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