(continue from previous post)

She sat back down on the edge of the hill, alone, her head in her hands, rocking back and forth. She sat there for a very long time, or maybe it only seemed a long time.

“Headache?”

She looked up from the ground with a start. She was no longer on the hill, but was sitting in the middle of a garden on some white pebbles. An small, elderly man was standing nearby, the setting sun silhouetting his face. For a moment, she thought it was God, but then she realized he didn’t look anything like Him. “Who are you?” she said as she leapt up from the ground, disturbing the design the pebbles had made.

“Do you always answer a question with a question?” he asked.

“What kind of answer is that?” she asked back.

“What kind did you expect?” he asked back.

The woman sighed. “I have no energy for such word games.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“I’ve just been told that I don’t exist.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear.”

She brightened. “Then I do exist?”

“No, of course not – it’s just generally good advice.”

She slumped back down and sat on the pebbles. “Great. Sage advice turns out to be vacuous platitudes – Jesus!”

A voice boomed from the heavens. “What?”

She called out: “Sorry! Never mind!”

The old sage sat down next to her. “Well,” he said, consolingly, “Don’t worry – everything works out for the best.”

She looked up at him. “It does?”

“Well, except that one last thing that usually does you in.”

She moaned. “Why are you doing this to me? All I want are a few straight answers.”

He held up one finger to the air and intoned: “Ask, and it shall be given you.”

“Really?” she said. “Should I pray for the answer?”

“All prayers are answered…” he said simply.

“Oh, thank God!” She shifted from sitting to kneeling, which was painful given the pebbles. She folded her hands, looked up to heaven and said “Please God – I beseech thee; grant me the comfort of full understanding…”

She knelt there, waiting.

For a long time.

Finally, she turned to the old man and said “Well?”

He held up one finger and intoned: “All prayers are answered – although sometimes the answer is no.”

She stood up, disgusted, “I’ve had enough of this!”

He stood up as well. “No you haven’t – you’ve had too little.”

Her face turned red and she took two stomping steps toward him. “What are you talking about? Could you please make just a little bit of sense?”

“Sensibility is not in the speaker, but in the listener. It is up to you to make sense out of what I say, not for me to speak sensibly.”

“But if there is no sense in what you say, how can I make sense out of it?”

“There is no statue in a lump of clay, and yet an artist can bring one forth from it.”

“But an artist creates the statue from the raw material…”

“As you yourself make sense from the raw material of your senses…usually. You are rapidly losing this ability.”

“Am I going mad?” she asked.

“No, you’re going sane” he answered.

“Why do I feel as though my entire universe is slipping out from under me?”

“Because it is.” He patted her on the shoulder. “Your universe has been like a cocoon around you for your entire life; it is breaking away now, and you are beginning to glimpse the reality beyond. It is necessarily a very disturbing event.”

“But what is this new reality?”

“The reality where you don’t exist.”

“That’s what the other guy said…”

“Right. The hardest thing for a human to do is to imagine his own non-existence. All humans are basically solipsistic; they see the entire universe as revolving around themselves. This is an illusion, because the self is an illusion.”

“But how can I not exist? I feel, I hear, I taste, I think – therefore I am.”

“Verbal chicanery. A trick of words,” He spat. “You say ‘I think’ and therefore there must be an I that thinks – but if I said ‘the heffleumps are coming,’ you wouldn’t take that as evidence that they exist, would you? Why should you accept that you exist just because you hear yourself talking? What you call your self is just a sound in one corner of the universe – an echo.”

“An echo?”

“An echo.”

“It is?”

“It is.”

Coming soon, the exciting conclusion!

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