Category Archives: An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

An Old Man From Jersey Explains: The Social Contract

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

An Old Man From Jersey Explains: Does Free Will Exist?

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life
The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, kid?

KID

Is there such a thing as free will?

OLD MAN

Would it change the way you live if I say yes or no?

KID

I’d feel a lot better if you said yes.

OLD MAN

Then yes, free will exists.

KID

You gotta prove it first.

OLD MAN

Okay, I’m 100% positive that free will does not exist.

KID

But you just said it does exist. What gives?

OLD MAN

The more convinced a person is that they’re right the more likely it is that they’re wrong. So if I’m 100% convinced free will does not exist then it probably does.

KID

OMG! How many logical fallacies were in that statement? Give me some hard evidence.

OLD MAN

Suppose I did make an elegant, logical, convincing argument one way or the other. Supposed you spent the rest of your life trying and failing to disprove my explanation. Suppose I won a Nobel prize for my theory and had it certified as God’s truth by the pope and the Dali Lama. Would any of that make my theory true?

KID

…close enough anyway.

OLD MAN

Wrong.

KID

You’re not going to tell me whether or not free will exists, are you?

OLD MAN

Flip a coin. Heads it does, tails it doesn’t. Either way, life goes on.

KID

Well I say free will doesn’t exist. Our decisions are the product of the casual nature of our environment. Our choices only appear to be ours because we can’t see all the cosmic dominoes hitting us in the back, pushing us this way and that.

OLD MAN

You’re free to think that if you want.

KID

No I’m not.

 

 

OLD MAN

Hmmm. Funny that you just admitted you don’t have total knowledge of how the universe operates yet you’ve completely convinced yourself that you know how the universe operates. I wonder what the chances are you’re wrong.

KID

I see what you did there, and I don’t like it.

OLD MAN

If you’d already made up your mind I don’t see why you came and asked me in the first place.

KID

I figured there was a 50/50 chance you’d reinforce my preconceived expectations. Anyway, I’m still set on the conclusion that free will doesn’t exist. So how do I go on living with the weight of my insignificance ever on my shoulders?

OLD MAN

Do what you were going to do anyway and blame it on fate when you screw up?

KID

Genius!

OLD MAN

Just know that that excuse isn’t going to get you out of trouble with your mother for getting home late tonight.

KID

Curses.


An Old Man From Jersey Explains: Philosophy

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life
The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, kid?

KID

Can you explain philosophy to me?

OLD MAN

Where do you want me to start from?

KID

From the beginning.

OLD MAN

In the beginning, humans were just like all the other dumb animals shivering in the cold, unable to speak or build tools. all we did all day was look for something to eat and someone to fu…aall in love with.  Over generations though, our brains grew, and as our brains grew they got better at thinking. We figured out how to communicate, make tools, devise strategy, form complex relationships, create art, that kind of stuff.

KID

OMG! What does this have to do with anything?

OLD MAN

You wanted me to start at the beginning. So that’s what’s happening. Now try to imagine what life was like for those human beings who were alive just after we learned to talk and write but before history began. They were completely lost and bewildered by the universe. Nothing made sense. What’s the sun? What’s lightning? How are babies made? Why do we get sick? What happens after death? They had all these questions with no answers. So people started asking questions.

KID

So philosophers are people who ask questions?

OLD MAN

Yeah, but that’s oversimplified near the point of being wrong.

KID

What’s that supposed to mean?

OLD MAN

So anybody who builds a house is a carpenter, right?

KID

Sounds about right.

OLD MAN

Well, anyone can nail a few boards together and make a roof over their head, but if you did that you’d end up with a dilapidated shanty that’s going to fall down and kill you in your sleep. It takes a lot more to be a proper carpenter and make a proper house.

KID

I see where you’re going with this. A  philosopher is someone who got a P.H.d. in philosophy and has been published professionally!

OLD MAN

So there weren’t any philosophers before humans invented the P.H.D. or the printing press?

KID

How else can you prove you’re a philosopher?

OLD MAN

Are the only real fighters the ones who win sponsored championship fights?

KID

I guess you can make a living as a fighter without being a household name.

OLD MAN

Are the only real fighters the ones who get paid?

KID

So you’re saying anyone who seriously devotes their life to asking questions about the nature of life and the universe is a philosopher?

OLD MAN

Yeah, but don’t you want to hear the rest of the story?

KID

Well, Veggie Tales doesn’t start for another hour. So I guess I got time to hear this.

OLD MAN

So back in the day, thousands of years before the invention of the printing press, people had all these simple questions about the universe like, “why does it rain?” but they didn’t know all the variables in the equation. So they came up with the best answers they could using the variables they had.

KID

Hold on. Why are we talking about figuring out why rain falls? That’s a scientific question, not a philosophical one.

OLD MAN

You can get a P.H.D. in science. Do you know what P.H.D. stands for?

KID

No.

OLD MAN

It stands for “philosophiae doctor” or “Doctor of philosophy.”

KID

Can’t you get a p.h.d. in religion? Does that mean anyone who asks religious questions is a philosopher too?

OLD MAN

I was just getting to that. Before the discovery of the periodic table of elements, philosophers deduced that rain was caused by magic, monsters and invisible sky people.

KID

How does that make religion philosophy?

OLD MAN

…the same way slapping together a children’s clubhouse out of junk is carpentry. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that religion, which is just a more flattering word for mythology, was man’s first attempt at philosophy.

KID

So where did philosophy go from there?

OLD MAN

Back when humans didn’t know anything about the universe, any question you asked about pretty much anything was groundbreaking, and we hadn’t divided the body of human knowledge into categories like astronomy, medicine, geology, microbiology, physics, etc.

KID

So it was all just lumped under theoretical philosophy?

OLD MAN

Exactly, and it was pretty chaotic. Alchemists were trying to turn poop into gold. Barbers doubled as doctors. Politicians consulted oracles.

KID

What changed?

OLD MAN

Eventually, humans started noticing patterns in the universe. The moon, stars, and sun moved predictably. Certain medicines worked on certain ailments. Fortune tellers were recognized as frauds, and people noticed prayer worked as effectively as random chance. So people developed a systematic method of analyzing the universe and testing hypotheses for truth.

KID

So philosophy created science. I never thought of it that way before. So if philosophy splintered into science, math, medicine and all that then what do professional philosophers do these days?

OLD MAN

Nowadays they try to answer the questions that don’t fit in any of the boxes the philosophers of yesteryear compartmentalized the universe into. Some of the questions they ask may not even have answers.

KID

That doesn’t sound very useful.

OLD MAN

Does philosophy have to be useful?

KID

Isn’t sitting around congratulating yourself all day for thinking about useless things the same as mental masturbation?

OLD MAN

I can’t disprove that, but the point is moot anyway. Philosophy is useful for lots of things.

KID

Are there any other professions that dogmatically defend their right to be empirically useless while insisting they’re vitally useful?

OLD MAN

…religion?

KID

That reminds me. If theologians study books written by dead prophets to get their P.H.D. in religion then what do philosophers study to get their P.H.D. in philosophy?

OLD MAN

They study logic…and professionally published books written by dead philosophers who had P.H.D.s or some equivalent.

KID

How much time do they spend constantly rehashing the same old tired and suspiciously archaic ideas?

OLD MAN

…all I can say is, some more than others.

KID

Let me come at this from another angle. If I read the whole bible ten times will that make me a Christian?

OLD MAN

…not in and of itself, no.

KID

What if I get a piece of paper saying I studied all those people?

OLD MAN

Give me $70,000, and I’ll give you a piece of paper saying you’re the queen of the universe.

KID

So what do I have to do to prove I’m a real philosopher?

OLD MAN

Take a step back. Life isn’t about proving you’re a philosopher.

KID

So what’s life about then?

OLD MAN

For someone who doesn’t know why you’re here or what you should be doing now that you’re here, life is about using what you’ve got to get life figured out to the best of your ability to live your life as well as possible and leave the world a better place for future humans to do even better for themselves in.

KID

Great! Now give me step by step instructions on how to do that.

OLD MAN

If you believe everything I tell you then you’ll be a follower. If you put everything you learn to the test of truth and continue positing your own questions, answering them and challenging them then you’ll be a philosopher.

KID

So which questions should I start with?

OLD MAN

I’d start by asking myself what the most important question I can ask myself is and then work down from there.

KID

So when do I get to start congratulating myself for asking useless questions and rubbing in other people’s faces how I can quote more archaic books than them?

OLD MAN

You’ll have to use your own discretion to balance that between how much time you have in this life, how much suffering is in the world and how much you care about solving the real world problems that cause people to suffer.

KID

One last question. If I have the mental capacity to solve real-world problems and help people, does that mean I have an obligation to?

OLD MAN

Good question. You may make a philosopher yet.


An Old Man From Jersey Explains: Religions

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, kid?

KID

Can you explain religion to me?

OLD MAN

Which one?

KID

…all of them.

OLD MAN

Well Christians say Hindus worship mythology, and Hindus say Christians worship mythology. Mormons say Muslims worship mythology, and Muslims say Mormons worship mythology…

KID

Hold the phone. Are you saying all religion is mythology?

OLD MAN

I’m just pointing out that there’s a consensus among all the religions…except maybe Caodaism…that religion is mythology.

KID

But one of them has to be right, look at how many people believe!

OLD MAN

By your reasoning the religion with the most believers must be the true one, but that changes from time to time.

KID

So what happens if the one true religion changes after you die?

OLD MAN

…my point exactly.

KID

Can’t I count on God to lead me to the one true religion?

OLD MAN

That approach will most likely lead you to the religion that has the most social influence in the area you were raised in.

KID

Isn’t there any reliable way to test for truth?

OLD MAN

…the scientific method?

KID

But I read on Facebook that science is evil and unreliable!

OLD MAN

Do you believe water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit? Do you believe light travels at 186,282 miles per second? Do you believe the planets orbit the sun? Do you believe volcanos are caused by magma bursting through the earth’s crust? Do you believe in gravity? Do you believe drinking Drano will kill you, and do you even know the science behind why drinking Drano will kill you?

KID

Yes to all the questions except the last one.

OLD MAN

Believing in science 99% of the time and then contradicting yourself the one time you need a cop-out excuse isn’t a valid form of argument. That’s a defense mechanism.

KID

Why are you so mean to religious people?

OLD MAN

I just pointed out the obvious. You’re the one that shot the messenger, which again, is a defense mechanism.

KID

So science isn’t evil…it’s just indifferent, like a neutral, objective third party?

OLD MAN

It has to be since the whole point of science is to study an indifferent universe.

KID

So which religion passes this objective test for truth that we rely on in every other aspect of our lives?

OLD MAN

Just to be clear, can we rephrase that question to ask which religious book passes the same test for truth we rely on in every other aspect of our lives?

KID

Do we really need to make that distinction?

OLD MAN

We can fact check words that are written down and hold them accountable. Arguing over what you personally feel your religion is to you is like arguing with a bipolar ghost with multiple personality disorders who is in denial.

KID

Okay, drama queen. So which religious book passes the test of scientific inquiry?

OLD MAN

None of them.

KID

So you’re saying God isn’t real?

OLD MAN

I didn’t say that.

KID

So you’re saying there is a god, but the one true prophet has yet to transcribe the true word of the lord through divine inspiration?

OLD MAN

I definitely didn’t say that.

KID

Why can’t you give me a straight answer?

OLD MAN

…You could ask God the same question.

KID

I pray every night, and God never answers.

OLD MAN

…well there you go.

KID

Does that prove God doesn’t exist?

OLD MAN

Dead dads and deadbeat dads are indistinguishable to orphans.

KID

What if God is like a rich, loving dad who only seems to have abandoned his children when in reality he let them leave the nest to grow up on their own?

OLD MAN

I’m just curious, do the orphans have to know or believe who their dad is in order to receive their inheritance? Or will the dad throw them in the gutter if they don’t figure out who he is before he comes to bail them out of the orphanage he stranded them in?

KID

That dad sounds like a douche bag, and the bible says, “A father’s love is a love without end, amen.”

OLD MAN

You may be surprised to learn that several self-proclaimed prophets wrote down in some pretty popular religious books that God is, as you say, a douche bag.

KID

Well, if a self-proclaimed prophet wrote it down then it must be true. I mean, how can we understand the nature of the universe or the difference between right and wrong without prophets to teach us our creator’s expectations for us?

OLD MAN

…are we still ignoring the fact that there’s a consensus among all the prophets that religion is mythology?

KID

Yes.

OLD MAN

You want rules? Here you go. Rule number one. Don’t put your hand on a hot stove.

KID

Did a prophet write that rule down?

OLD MAN

Did we need one to?

KID

We need someone to tell us how to live.

OLD MAN

…spoken like a true victim of battered-person syndrome.

KID

I don’t know what that means, but I stand by my statement.

OLD MAN

Then maybe you should worship the I.R.S. It’s got millions of rules, and they’re constantly being updated.

KID

The I.R.S. is evil. They take all your money, and their rules don’t even make sense half the time.

 

OLD MAN

…Funny how often that happens when one person gets to tell another person how to live.

KID

The fact remains, I can’t be held responsible for deciding how to live.

OLD MAN

…then what’s the point of leaving the nest?

KID

…to learn obedience?

OLD MAN

…you mean like a slave?

KID

God gave us the free will to choose to accept or reject him.

OLD MAN

Telling people, “Do what I say or die.” doesn’t give them free will. It gives them a tyrannical ultimatum.

KID

Is there anything we can know for sure outside of what the prophets told us?

OLD MAN

…so far water has frozen at 32 degrees Fahrenheit every time I’ve checked.

KID

Ah Ha! If that’s an unchangeable rule then God must have made it!

OLD MAN

…which god was that then?

KID

If a rose is a rose by any other name then so is the force that determines the freezing point of water.

OLD MAN

…then why name the rose at all?

KID

I need a concrete answer to bring closure to this issue, and you haven’t given me any yet.

OLD MAN

…are you talking to me or god?

KID

The point is there has to be more to life than being stranded in an indifferent universe where you have to figure out everything for yourself and take responsibility for your own conclusions.

OLD MAN

…you say that like it’s a bad thing. You seem to be navigating life just fine so far, and you can’t even quote a religious book accurately. Is this really about defending religion?

KID

I’m just scared of death, and I’m projecting my fears the only way my elders taught me to. But mainly I’m afraid of going to hell. Isn’t it better to wager on religion and be wrong than wager against it and be wrong?

OLD MAN

So which religion do you wager on?

KID

…The one that makes the best promises and the worst threats?

OLD MAN

…and fails the test of science and takes all your money and has a bunch of rules that don’t even make any sense?

KID

But if I strip away all my preconceived beliefs then what am I left with?

OLD MAN

…freedom?

KID

Are you the devil trying to trick me?

OLD MAN

I could ask you the same question, but if you’re constantly disagreeing with the people whose job it is to indifferently, objectively point out the obvious then at some point you might consider the possibility that the source of the confusion is that you’re wrong.

KID

I’m going to have to go home and think about this.

OLD MAN

…funny you were created with the capacity to do that.


An Old Man From Jersey Explains: What Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten year old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, KID?

KID

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

OLD MAN

Is the chicken a male or female?

KID

A female, duh. Male chickens don’t lay eggs.

OLD MAN

So which came first, the female chicken that laid the egg or the male chicken that impregnated the female chicken?

KID

There would have to be two more chicken to have them…and two before them…and two before them.

OLD MAN

You figured it out. There’s chickens all the way down.

KID

Well, let’s say time only stretches into the future.

OLD MAN

You’re assuming time exists.

KID

Seeing as how I have to be home at six, and this is taking longer than I thought, let’s assume time exists. So where did the first two chickens come from?

OLD MAN

…the same place as everything else?

KID

So what existed before everything else?

OLD MAN

…Potential?

KID

What about time? Did that exist before anything else?

OLD MAN

Potentially.

KID

Was the universe born from its own potential?

OLD MAN

Well, if you’re going to assume the universe had a beginning, or a birth as you put it, I reckon you can assume whatever else you want.

KID

How could it not have a beginning?

OLD MAN

You don’t want time to have an end, but you expect it to have a beginning?

KID

Which option gives me and the chickens a definite beginning in time and an eternal future?

OLD MAN

The beginning of time is the end of time. The chicken is the egg. Time and space are a loop.

KID

I’ll take it.

OLD MAN

Got any more questions?

KID

Well… I had one, but I guess you sorta already answered it.

OLD MAN

Yeah, what was that?

KID

If God created the universe then who created God?

OLD MAN

…assuming there is a god.

KID

I’m going home now.


An Old Man From Jersey Explains: How To Grow Up

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey, mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, kid?

KID

Can you explain how to grow up to me?

OLD MAN

Where do you want me to start from?

KID

From the beginning.

OLD MAN

If you don’t define your end goal you can’t define the process to achieve it. So the first thing you have to do is define what a grown up is.

KID

So what’s a grown up?

OLD MAN

You’re assuming there’s really such thing as a grown up. It might just be a term that old people invented to subjugate young people.

KID

I’m not buying it. There’s definitely a difference between me and my mom.

OLD MAN

Well, your mom has learned how to survive in the particular environment she lives in, and she’s taken responsibility for her survival as well as yours. So there’s that, but it doesn’t necessarily make her a higher form of life than anyone who made the mistake of being born after her.

KID

So all I have to do to grow up is learn how to survive and take responsibility for my survival? I’m already learning all that in school. Does that mean all I have to do to grow up is graduate?

OLD MAN

The skills necessary to survive change every day as technological advancements, social, political and economic evolution change the world we live in. So by your reasoning, if and when the skills you learned in school become obsolete then you’ll regress back to childhood….assuming you went to a good school and actually learned everything your teachers taught you in the first place. You would also revert to childhood if you moved to a foreign country where your life skills aren’t applicable.

KID

Is all that really true?

OLD MAN

…only if you choose to define adults and children by mastery of their environment.

KID

But what’s the point of it all if I’m just surviving to grow up and growing up to survive?

OLD MAN

…maybe there’s more to life than becoming the prefect product of your environment.

KID

Like what?

OLD MAN

Like becoming yourself.

KID

Why’s that important?

OLD MAN

It’s the same for you and me as it is for a flower. You grow to your full potential and bloom, not because it accomplishes anything else in the world but just for the sake of experiencing the majesty of existing for its own sake, and since what you experience is defined by who you are then in order to experience life to its fullest potential you have to become you to your fullest potential.

KID

So that’s what it means to be a grown up? you have to become you to the fullest extent possible?

OLD MAN

…only if you choose to define adults and children by their level of self actualization.

KID

By that definition are you an adult?

OLD MAN

I’m not dumb enough to claim to be anything but lost, but if you want some good examples of people I’d consider grown ups then study Leonardo Da Vinci, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, people like that.

KID

I don’t know all of those people, but the ones I do know were really, really smart. I mean, they were born smart. I won’t ever be that smart.

OLD MAN

If you put as much effort into studying as you do making excuses and defending where you’re at you could become smarter than all those people put together.

KID

Would you just tell me what I need to study to grow up and become myself like those guys did?

OLD MAN

Just study what those guys studied.

KID

What did they study?

OLD MAN

Everything.

KID

When do I finish my studies?

OLD MAN

Never.

KID

But if I never finish then what’s the point?

OLD MAN

Everything you will ever think or do is based on your knowledge. The more you know the more you are and the more you can do. The less you know the less you are and the less you can do.

KID

But where will all that knowledge get me?

OLD MAN

It’ll bring you back to where you started and you’ll know where you are. Then you’ll have perspective. With perspective you’ll have direction, and with direction your actions will finally have meaning.

KID

What if I’d rather do something else with my life?

OLD MAN

That’s up to you, but how can you define your wants if you haven’t defined yourself?

KID

How can I be anyone but myself?

OLD MAN

A seed is not a flower.

KID

What about the wants I have right now? Aren’t they valid?

OLD MAN

Sure. Just remember that whatever path you take, you bet your life on.


An Old Man From Jersey Explains: The Meaning Of Life

This is a mini-series of comics about a naive but curious ten-year-old boy who pesters a crude but wise old man while he sits on the steps to their dingy New Jersey apartment building trying to read the newspaper.

 

An old man sits on the steps to his dingy New Jersey apartment reading a newspaper. A naive but curious ten year old boy stands on the grass nearby pestering him with questions.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

 

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life
The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

TRANSCRIPT

 

KID

Hey Mister!

OLD MAN

What do you want, Kid?

KID

Can you explain life to me?

OLD MAN

Where do you want me to start from?

KID

From the beginning.

OLD MAN

Okay, now look. If I offered you 100 billion dollars to do it, and I promised to kill your whole family if you didn’t then would you do it?

KID

Um, yeah.

OLD MAN

That’s right. You wouldn’t even have to think about it or work up the motivation because there would be no choice There’d just be one path in front of you.

KID

The heck does this have to do with life?

OLD MAN

If you don’t understand how important life is or why then you won’t have the appropriate motivation to take life as seriously as you should. Then you won’t put the appropriate amount of effort into living, but if you truly, truly understood the value of life then you wouldn’t have to debate with yourself or work up the strength to sacrifice any of the relative temptations of the world to pursue life’s highest purpose. Your motivation would be so strong there’d only be one choice, one path before you. So the first lesson you need to learn about life is how valuable it is and why.

KID

Cool beans. So how valuable is life?

OLD MAN

How old are you, kid?

KID

I’m ten and a half years old going on eleven.

OLD MAN

No you’re not. You’re closer to 14 billion years old. All the stuff in your body was there at the Big Bang. Galaxies rose and fell around you as you floated to a place where the atoms in your body could finally come together in a way that makes you, you.

KID

So you’re saying I was meant to be here since the beginning of time?

OLD MAN

…that or you’re infinitely lucky to be here.

KID

So I’m either destined or lucky to come all this way just to die!? What’s the point of existing for a second if I’m not going to exist forever? Doesn’t the brevity of life make life pointless?

OLD MAN

The finite amount of time you get to live here is infinitely valuable because of its scarcity alone. You asked me how valuable life is. Well, here’s my answer. It’s infinitely valuable.

KID

Gosh, that’s a burden of responsibility bordering on a guilt trip.

OLD MAN

…ironic that it’s coming from an indifferent universe. Anyway, given that every second of your short, irreplaceable life is infinitely valuable, that makes the following question infinitely important: What’s the most important thing you can do with your life?

KID

I don’t know how to read a clock much less answer that question.

OLD MAN

Then find someone who knows the meaning of life and ask them.

KID

Who knows the meaning of life?

OLD MAN

Nobody.

KID

In all of human history?

OLD MAN

Nobody. Ever. Anywhwere. Did you get an instruction book to life when you were born that explained everything? No, well, nobody else did either. Nobody has any idea what’s going on. There are no experts, no authorities, no grown ups.

KID

My mom knows the answer to any question I ask her. And if she didn’t know what’s right and wrong then how could she spank me for doing wrong?

OLD MAN

We might get taller, and we might memorize a lot of facts, but philosophically we’re al stuck at 5 years old guessing at life and faking our maturity level until we start believing whatever it is we’re doing is what humans are supposed to be doing.

KID

So…you’re saying you’re not the person to ask about the meaning of life?

OLD MAN

Ask as many people as many questions as you can, but never take anything for granted, because you’re fate is your responsibility. It’s up to you to figure out the meaning of life.

KID

But you just said nobody ever figured it out.

OLD MAN

…sucks, don’t it?

KID

So that’s life? You’re born lost. The End. Hope it don’t suck to be you.

OLD MAN

You watch too much anime. So what if we don’t know why we’re here? The point is we’re still here. We still gotta do something. Since we don’t have anything more important to do than figure out what we’re supposed to be doing then we may as well spend our lives figuring that out.

KID

But if we can’t figure out why we’re here then how do we figure out what to do now that we’re here?

OLD MAN

There are things we can know about ourselves and the universe we’ve found ourselves stranded in. The more of those things we know the better we can live. We might not be able to prove we lived ight according to the ultimate maxim, but we can do something good with what we’ve got, and that which a man can do he should do.

KID

Sounds good. So where do I start my education?

OLD MAN

You can’t understand how a car works until you understand the parts that make up a car. Same thing with life. And what’s life then? Life is being a walking, talking, breathing, thinking creature stranded in this great, big, beautiful, lonely, indifferent universe.

KID

So I should become a mechanic? Got it.

OLD MAN

If you want to understand life then you gotta understand the universe that gave birth to you and that you live in. Learn all the science you can, because that’ll teach you the facts that everything else is built on.

KID

So once I become a super scientist then where do I point my telescope to start studying the meaning of life?

OLD MAN

That grass you’re standing on is alive. Why don’t you just ask it?

KID

Hey grass! why are you alive? It didn’t answer.

OLD MAN

Did it do anything?

KID

No. It just sat there and grew.

OLD MAN

Well there you go then.

KID

Are you saying the meaning of life is to just sit here and grow?

OLD MAN

I’m just pointing out what life does.

KID

But our lives would be pointless if all we did was just get big, grow old and die like grass.

OLD MAN

So you’re saying this grass’s life is meaningless?

KID

The life of grass has meaning because it’s a part of the food chain.

OLD MAN

…and whatever life form is at the top of the food chain has the most meaningful life, right?

KID

Exactly, but does that mean if more advanced aliens come along it’ll make my life worthless?

OLD MAN

But does that mean if more advanced aliens come along it’ll make my life worthless?

KID

Okay, I take that back. Life is inherently valuable to each individual life form simply because it’s alive.

OLD MAN

Now that that’s settled the grass is still growing into taller grass. What are you growing into?

KID

A taller human?

OLD MAN

That’s your body. What about your mind? What about your identity?

KID

I am what I am.

OLD MAN

That’s good that you acknowledge you’re a product of your environment. Now you need to acknowledge that you’ve yet to blossom into a significantly independent identity.

KID

Do they teach how to do that in school?

OLD MAN

I’d suggest enrolling in some online psychology classes.

KID

Now are you saying the meaning of life is to be a psychologist?

OLD MAN

The grass is here to be grass, and you’re here to be you. If you have questions about how to be you then I suggest you talk to the people who study “yous.”

KID

That’s painfully logical. So who am I supposed to be trying to become while I’m here?

OLD MAN

I suspect the point is that you get to pick.

KID

There’s no wrong answer?

OLD MAN

Well, you’re the one who is going to have to live with yourself. so You get what you got.

KID

So that’s life then?

OLD MAN

…I didn’t say to take my word for it.

 

 


%d bloggers like this: