“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
Wise words, as it’s through asking questions that we grow, evolve, and make progress. Raising new questions can give rise to new possibilities and to the ability to regard old problems from a new angle.
The crux lies in the underlying intent of the question. Because questions can be asked in a variety of ways, for example…:
With genuine interest in the answer…
Without really caring about what the answer is (like many “how-are-yous” and “what’s ups”)…
Or in a rhetoric way, either to point out something blatantly obvious with a rhetorical question that doesn’t require an answer, or to put someone on the spot by giving them a hard time.
The latter case is often used as a subtle way to try and discredit the messenger with a question that’s impossible to answer. The lack of a (satisfying) answer is then used as an argument that everything they say must not be true or worth mentioning.
While I get all types of questions, this particular kind is one I receive with a certain degree of regularity. Occasionally the question is a subtly disguised attack on me personally, other times it goes somewhat along the lines of:
“You think you know the answer to everything… So since you’re obviously such a smart-ass, answer me this: What’s the meaning of life? Bet you don’t know the answer to that one…”
Now truth be told, the age-old question of “what-the-hell-it’s-all-about” is an interesting one to ask. Many of the greatest minds of all ages have devoted their lifelong attention to it.
But since a lot of us are still asking it, it doesn’t seem like a universally satisfactory explanation has been found yet.
So then the “smart-ass” must know, right?
Now I admit:
During my relatively short time here on this plane of existence, I’ve asked myself this question too. Many times actually.
And I’ll tell you my personal answer in a minute.
But first, a little background…
Let me make one thing abundantly clear:
In no way whatsoever am I trying to be some big-time guru with all the answers. Nor would I ever pretend that I know the answer to anyone’s questions.
In fact, in my experience, those who pretend they know the answer to everything there is to ask (particularly the ones that shout the loudest), are usually merely confirming that they don’t.
All I can do is share with you what I have come to understand from my own experience. Then it’s up to you to see if that resonates with you, and if it’s something you can put to use for yourself.
The truth is, no one does have all the answers, because we’re all having a subjective experience. The language of life and ‘the universe’ is one of paradox. And ultimately, only you have the answer to your particular questions.
As for me, I’ve been asking my questions of “what-the-hell-it’s-all-about” from an early age.
In part, this was probably encouraged by the situation I grew up in. I have two younger brothers who both have a mental/intellectual handicap, one of whom is also autistic to top it off. Since this was just always the way it was and in a sense I simply never knew any better, for the better part of my childhood I never really gave it any thought.
But ultimately, I started to wonder:
Why was I gifted with the intellectual abilities that allowed me to roll through grammar school and get me two university degrees without much trouble, on educational fields that I didn’t even like, while my younger brothers were more like the exact polar opposite?
In a situation like that, a dude is bound to ask questions, such as:
Where does this extreme intellectual contrast come from?
Was I just ‘lucky?’
And [recalling a vivid memory of an actual event] what the hell am I doing here analyzing the financial viability of this plan for optimizing this middleware application for decision-modeling evaluation of whether or not to state-subsidize local shrimp farms in this far out ‘no-man’s-land’ corner of this insignificant country I live in anyway (even though I’m paid well for this meaningless and mind-numbing ‘work’)? What’s that all about?
Who am I anyway… and what the hell are we all doing here anyway?
I had to admit that I didn’t know… which only added to the inner friction I felt at the time.
So the next step was to try and put it all in perspective, by making sense of the rest of the world. I read newspapers and watched the news… and all I saw was war, famine, disease… you name it.
So again, in a situation like that, a dude is bound to ask questions, such as:
Am I just lucky?
Who the hell am I anyway?
What the hell are we all doing here anyway?
What’s this fuss all about?
In short, I stumbled upon the age-old questions that wise-cracking sages of all times and from all over the world have bent their wise heads over.
Many people go through the twists and turns of their own lives and ultimately reach a point where they start asking similar questions. And when they can’t seem to find a satisfactory answer themselves, they look for others to answer their questions for them… such as religious leaders, political leaders, clever professors, “smart-asses,” and so on…
But for me personally, none of them were ever able to give me any answers that were satisfactory to me.
So for years I kept pondering, giving myself a hard time because everything I did with my life seemed so insignificant. But I kept doing what I was doing anyway, wondering why the hell I was even doing it…
And I can tell you one thing:
Devoting my life to doing what I really didn’t want to do, while not seeing any perspective or purpose in what I was doing, did not uplift my spirit…
In fact, the whole thing became rather depressing, and after a while I even started manifesting in some ‘physical’ health issues.
But then one day it suddenly occurred to me… ironically through a song I heard that was titled “The Answer:”
“Oh, the answer lies beyond the pain All the questions in our minds, we surely ask in vain”
I suddenly understood that there is no single answer to all the questions of life. My experience had already confirmed that idea, because every new answer I found merely brought up a new question. As such, in the words of the song, they were all asked in vain.
Now you may wonder:
“How the hell does that help me?”
Well, stick with me for just another moment… Because once this realization really kicked in, it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life… and it also became my answer, as well as my pragmatic approach to the question of the ‘meaning of life.’
Wanna know what it was?
Sit down for this one:
For all intents and purposes, life might as well have NO MEANING AT ALL.
No really, let me explain…
Our lives are just a subjective experience of ourselves (and our inner states). However, that doesn’t mean it’s just a mere shuffle from cradle to grave with some weird stunts and streaks in between. Instead:
For the pragmatist, the key is to give it meaning… i.e. to deliberately and actively bring meaning to it yourself.