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Heaven only knows!

Apr 10, 2019
When my father (usually at Christmas) had consumed a little too much alcohol, he would always volubly produce the phrase “Life – what’s it all about?”
Tony Allen: And finally...

We younger family members never really had any idea what he was on about, and as by this stage our mother had chosen “not to get involved in this silliness”, we just simply sniggered and let the question pass unanswered.

Both parents have long departed, but as my own existence progresses, I really do find myself asking the same question, and still find it just as difficult to answer, although this is no longer accompanied by a snigger.

Don’t worry, I am not going to enter into a philosophical tract here, but the irony is that as we grow older we acquire more and more knowledge to fill our cerebrum and as a consequence our ability to answer such a fundamental question is stifled.

I’m quite sure that prehistoric Homo sapiens would have had no problem in answering this question: wake, feed, procreate and sleep. In fact, when you come to think about it, much the same process which exists with modern day teenagers.

At one time, of course, religion gave us all of the answers we required, and to those who are devout believers, that’s where the matter ends. But (alas?) the majority of us consider that we are now far too sophisticated to accept the simple tenets of a religion – and consequently find it difficult to provide an answer to this ostensibly simple conundrum.

I suppose what we are really talking about here is destiny, in other words: Where are we going and more importantly why are we here? One famous philosopher – Whoopi Goldberg I think it was – said: “We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of that reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” So it’s fair to say that Whoopi has no more idea than the rest of us. Personally I think the question is better answered by my friend Barry who after finishing a vindaloo curry was once heard to remark: “‘Isn’t it funny how all of the best parts of your life make you sweaty!”

I wonder whether the problem that we now have is that we have become too preoccupied with the present and pay little attention to either the past or the future, whereas previous generations appeared to see themselves as part of life’s continuum and would conduct their lives with this very much in mind. They were aware of an almost physical connection with both previous and future generations. Today we seem to have a more selfish attitude towards our existence.

What do we want?

“Health, wealth and happiness!”

When do we want it?

“Now!”

I referred earlier to prehistoric Homo sapiens and their basic requirements for life, but when you come to think about it, those requirements are no different to those for the rest of the animal kingdom. The main divergence is that, through some historical quirk or other, we are governed by self-awareness, whereas they are governed by instinct. So what it comes down to is that, through evolution, we have reached a point where we seek to ask questions about our existence, whereas the rest of the world’s animal inhabitants really don’t give a damn. And they really should, because we seem to be ruining their world. And we don’t seem to give a damn either.

I know this is getting a bit heavy, and we all know that this is just the kind of subject to raise at a dinner party (does that term still exist?) if the table is going a bit quiet. The truth of the matter is that none of us really has a suitable answer and we are therefore left to pontificate without really ever arriving at a definitive conclusion.

So I’m afraid that we have not answered my late Father’s bibulous question. The only certain answer is that we have no certain answer. The past has gone and the future is difficult to determine, so what we are left with is ‘now’; so make the most of it. The one thing I am sure of, however, is that my dear old Dad is quite likely in a much better position to answer his own question than I am. 

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