it’s the question that’s keeping me up all night

This story has fallen into my hands courteous of Paulo Coelho from his blog.  I know he won’t mind me posting it here because he ends all his blog posts with:

Welcome to Share with Friends – Free Texts for a Free Internet

And he is, in fact, giving a speech today at the Frankfurt Book Fair on the very topic of a free Internet and the value of sharing content.

Anyway, I’m passing this story on because it ties in with some thoughts I had in the shower this morning.  You see, I am one of these people who has been cursed with an insatiable drive to find an answer to the question, ‘What is it all about, this thing called life?’

‘Why are we here?’

‘Why am I here?’

Of course, I have to take time out to do practical things like work to earn money so I can eat and pay the bills, but always just below the surface there’s this splinter in my mind’s eye that gnaws away at me like a Rottweiler on a steak bone.

Some times I have these moments of clarity in which I swear I have reached a state of enlightenment and know without doubt what the answer to the question is.  But those moments disappear like a snowflake on a hot engine.

Other times, the question drives me to the brink of despair and I want to throw in the towel and tell God I quit.

And then there are times like today when I think to myself, ‘Who cares?’

‘Does it really matter if I know time?’

Forget the question, just get on with life – whatever that is?

They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.  And the teacher can come in many guises.  This time, an anecdote:

Three people passing in a small caravan saw a man contemplating the late afternoon in the Sahara Desert, from the top of a mountain.

‘It must be a shepherd who has lost a sheep,’ said the first.

‘No, I don’t think he’s looking for anything, much less at a sunset, when the view is hazy.  I think he’s waiting for a friend.’

‘I guarantee that’s a holy man, and is looking for enlightenment,’ commented the third.

They began to talk about what the man was doing, and became so engrossed in the discussion that they almost fought over it. Finally, in order to resolve the matter, they decided to climb the mountain and go to the man.

‘Are you looking for your sheep?’ asked the first.

‘No, I have no flock.’

‘Then you are surely waiting for someone,’ said the second.

‘I’m a lonely man who lives in the desert,’  was the answer.

‘Since you live in the desert in solitude, you must be a saint searching for God’s signs, and are meditating’ said the third man, delighted.

‘Does everything on Earth have to have an explanation? Then I shall explain: I am merely looking at the sunset. Is that not enough to give sense to our lives?’

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