Sometimes it seems like if you keep asking questions over and over again that it is a sign of mental paralysis and stagnation, but this is not the case. A good friend of mine once told me the following story about questions. He had been troubled from an early age by a particular old stuffed animal in his closet in the house where he grew up. Later as he got older he forgot about the stuffed animal (a cat) and became troubled by fears of death. Later when he forgot about the fears of death he became anguished by feelings of loneliness. He threw himself into a relationship with a woman but it came to grief and he was left angry, alone, and confused.
He began studying the teachings of Ramana Maharshi the Indian wise-man and asking himself “Who am I?”
He later became disillusioned with this question and asked simpler more pragmatic questinos: Do I trust Joe at work? Does he have my best interests at heart? Should I get life insurance? Should I ask my children to go on diets or leave them alone?
What sort of things should I have my children eat?
How should I celebrate the New Year?
Why do I like Thursday so much?
Why do I like it when it is misty?
Do I miss my parents or am I glad that they’re gone because now I can live my life?
If I couldn’t live my life before what makes me think I am living it now?
What does it mean to “live” a life anyway — doesn’t life just do its thing?
Finally he reached the ten million question and all the questions added up to a single question.
When I asked him what it was he said it was difficult to put into words because just as when there is mud dried onto the back of a shovel it can crack into separate pieces in a lot of ways, but how it falls off the shovel doesn’t really matter, because what is revealed is the same: a shovel.
He did say though that it now feels to him that questions and answering questions are part of the same activity, like the flat part of the shovel and the handle.
It was pretty clear to me what the answers to all the questions were, that he had had an insight into the non-locality of the self and that the stuffed animal, the girl he lost, the parents he lost, the misty Thursday of his childhood, Joe from the office, his children and their weight, years old and new and still to come, life and lives, lived and unlived, were all different pieces of his life that had been scattered around the universe, or even more correctly what he thought was his life was simply a piece of them.
I wonder if he thinks that’s right. When I remember to, I’ll ask him!