The Meaning Of Life
A young man goes to search for the meaning of life. He decides to ask around.
The first person he meets is a wealthy man. “That’s easy,” he says. “The meaning of life is to accumulate wealth. Then you can transform and inspire your community.” The young man takes this advice to heart. He studies hard, gets into a prestigious school and becomes a stock broker. He has an inherent gift for the work and wealth comes easily. Before long, he is living in the lap of luxury. Of course he remembers to do good work in his community as well, but try as he might, there is only so much he can change. He still feels like something is missing. Now a middle aged man, he decides to ask someone else about the meaning of life.
The next person he asks is a hedonist. “That’s easy,” he says. “Life is rich in all kinds of personal pleasures. Sample each one, indulge all your senses!” The middle aged man takes this advice to heart. Using his vast fortune, he is able to travel the world. He eats the rarest delicacies, makes love to the most beautiful women. He tries all manner of exotic substances in order to expand his mind. But soon enough, his fortune is gone, and despite the many unique experiences he has had, he still finds something missing.
Now an old man, he decides to ask one more time. The next person he meets is a preacher, who says, “that’s easy. Dedicate the remainder of your life to communion with God.” So the old man joins a church and repents his sins. His days are spent in prayer and meditation. However, he is bothered by the many differences in the religions of the world. The way they all claim to be right strikes him as arrogant and overbearing, and sure enough, he still feels like something is missing inside him.
One day he takes a long walk on the beach and spots a monk going through some sort of martial arts exercise. His kicks and punches flow like water and the expression of peace on his face is sublime. So once again, he gathers his courage and asks; “Excuse me, sir, do you know the meaning of life?”
“That’s easy,” says the monk. “You must first master and then let go of the self. On the highest mountain in Tibet there is a monastery. There you will find the wisest men on Earth, who have spent many decades devoted to this path. Go learn from them.”
As always, the old man takes this advice to heart. He sells what’s left of his things, buys some mountain climbing supplies, and ascends the mountain. He is exhausted but there is indeed a beautiful temple before him! When he walks through the door, there are masters in flowing robes sitting on the floor, each with a line of disciples before them. Each master is teaching a complex martial art technique meant not only to help combat a strong opponent, but to strengthen one’s own body and mind.
The old man gets in the first line, but they are teaching a complex throw which would be too hard on his back.
The old man gets in the second line, but they are teaching a spinning kick. At his age, he lacks the dexterity for this.
The old man gets in the third line, but they are teaching a precise counterattack, and his reflexes have dulled with age.
Soon enough he realizes that he must start with the most basic training these sages can offer, so he tracks down a disciple that doesn’t look particularly busy and says; “excuse me, sir? I came here looking for the meaning of life but I am terribly lost. I need an easy technique to get me started. Could you please help me find the punch line?”