Image: Drawing XIII by Georgia O’Keeffe 1915
Reena’s Task: Have you ever been inspired to think of a life, while viewing a mountain, river, animal, bird, insect, plant or any other element of nature? Pen down your thoughts in whatever manner they occur to you. Let it all flow … there need not be a conclusion, as a flow depicts the spirit more than anything else.
It was to be an exciting lecture, advertised around the campus as a discussion on the meaning of life.
Professor Emeritus Knowitall waltzed into the lecture theatre resplendent in his flowing academic gown and took centre stage.
He looked around the packed auditorium and asked the question we were all waiting to hear:
“What?” his shrill voice rang out, “Is the meaning of life?”
Immediately there was a chorus of forty-two, some had signs depicting the number, most rolled around with laughter.
The Professor stood stony still; his gazed fixed us as we settled down following the frivolity of his question.
“Mr Adams has a lot to answer for,” he said, “I hope when he arrived in the next life the question was answered for him.
It is a question we all at some time find ourselves asking when the inexplicable occurs and our own humanity is questioned.
My question today is whether or not the meaning of life applies to just humans. Can the fly on the wall ask that question, the lion roaming the savannah, the polar bear in the Arctic, the humble mouse in your house?
Some may well argue that in the animal world life is about survival, how well your instincts allow you to see danger and act on it before you are eaten.
But as humans, we have what we call reason, and we apply that to a lot of things we do. It assists us in knowing right from wrong, it causes us to question the motives of others when we can’t understand the motivation behind, for example, random acts of violence on other people.
The whole point of life comes under scrutiny when we can’t understand why things happen.
My question is, do we need to understand, do we have to have empathy with everything happening around us?
Isn’t it a matter of accepting the differences and allowing those differences to make up the pattern of life we see?
The fly on the wall is a fly doing what a fly does. The man who cleans the cesspool at the end of the street does it because that is what he does and he does it to earn a living. The butcher, baker and candlestick maker all operate on the same basis.
Its who they and what they do.
You are students. But you are students with ambition, want to succeed in what you do, but eventually, you will settle for whatever it is you settle for. Who knows at this stage what they might be.
I am a Professor, it’s who and I and what I do and I get to come here and discuss questions as to the meaning of life, and you all have an opinion, you will all most likely be correct, and that correctness will reflect the context from which you come.
A staunch religious background will deliver a reason complementing that background, the same for those from a more secular background and so on.
So those of you who said forty-two at the start of this session may well be right, it may well be a random number, it may well be a puzzle to spend hours debating, and we may never know the answer because for each of us it is something different.
But it creates debate, and while ever it does, we can have so much fun listening to each other’s opinion.”
With that, he stopped his talk, gathered his gown about himself, and waltzed off the stage to a standing ovation.