Asking the Relevant Questions About Life


Asking the Relevant Questions About Life

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A tourist once came to a dense forest in a very remote part of the world, where no outsider had ever ventured before. He wanted to sail down a river and write a book about his journey. He hoped his book would become a bestseller so that he could not only cover the expenses of his trip but also earn a handsome profit. The book, he thought, might make him a celebrity back home, rich and famous!

The tourist negotiated with an old boatman to take him down the river in his canoe.

No sooner had they got into the canoe and commenced their journey than the tourist began shooting off a long list of questions, about all sorts of topics for the book that he was writing.

“How long is the river?” he asked the boatman.

The boatman answered, “Sir, I have no idea. I am familiar only with a small stretch of it.”

“Okay, tell me, how did the river get its name?” he asked.

“Sir, I don’t know. All I know is that it has been called by this name by our ancestors for centuries,” replied the boatman.

They sailed on for a bit and then the tourist asked, “How many different types of fish live in this river?”

“Sir, I don’t know exactly, but I know it’s very many”, the boatman responded.

“Tell me, how deep is the river? You ought to know at least this much, having lived here all your life,” the tourist said, a little exasperatedly.

“Sir, I have no idea,” said to boatman. “No one here ever felt the need to measure the river’s depth.”

The tourist did not think the reply was at all helpful. He was beginning to think that the boatman was utterly ignorant—he couldn’t answer even a single question of his to his satisfaction! How would he be able to gather any of the information that he wanted for his book? At this rate, his book would most definitely not be a bestseller, which meant that he wouldn’t turn rich overnight, as he had fancied he might! Oh, how awful that would be!

The tourist decided to replace the boatman with someone who could answer all his queries. He was just about to request the boatman to turn back when the boatman shrieked, “Sir! Do you know how to swim?”

“No, I don’t!” he replied, not concealing his agitation. “But why do you ask?”

“Because there’s a storm coming and the boat is about to capsize,” the boatman said. “If you know how to swim, you can cross over to the shore. But if you don’t know how to swim, it is likely you will drown!”

Like this tourist, many of us are full of questions. We love asking questions—about this, that, and the other. But how many of these questions are really relevant and necessary for our life, in the ultimate sense? How many of us ask, and seek answers to, really important questions of existential import such as:

• “Who created the universe, and why?”
• “What is the actual purpose of this human life?”
• “Who am I, really?”
• “Where have I come from?”
• “Why have I come into this world?”
• “What is the right way to live?”
• “What will happen to me after I die?”

Asking such questions and seeking answers to them can help us swim across the river of life and arrive safely on the other shore. Ignoring such questions might lead us to drown in an impending storm.

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