When I was in the army, a bunch of my buddies and I decided to play a trick on a guy in our platoon. He was a very heavy sleeper, so we carefully lifted his bunk and carried it out of the barracks, down the steps and far out into the desert. When we were quite a distance from the barracks, we gently placed the bunk behind a sand dune. When the poor soldier opened his eyes in the morning, he could see nothing but sand and sage brush.
He was panicked. He had no idea where he was. He couldn’t see civilization and he couldn’t see the barracks; all he could see was a world of sand dunes. When his shock subsided and he began to explore, he was finally able to go over a hill and see the barracks off in the distance. When he finally got back he was full of questions.
The bewildered soldier began to ask the guys in our platoon, “What happened? How did I get out there? Who put me out in the desert and why?” All logical questions.
This guy found his way home by following our footprints in the sand. He looked for evidence and clues. Logic played a role, but he wasn’t content to simply accept his plight, play in the sand and go on as though nothing mattered; in a sense, accepting his circumstances without question.
Every time I look down from a plane I see insects with headlights following each other on rivers of highway. I always wonder how many of them give a thought to how they got there, who put them there, and the big question… “What’s it all about, Alfie?”
There’s a popular expression I keep hearing; “It is what it is.” That reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s statement that the universe exists and that’s all there is to it. But at the same time I can hear the haunting voice of Peggy Lee singing that old song, “Is That All There Is?” I think Russell’s conclusion is a cop out, but at least Peggy’s song implies curiosity.
I’m always suspicious of people who think they have all the answers, but I respect those who search, whether or not I agree with their conclusions. What I don’t understand are those who lack the curiosity to read, study, think, explore or even “contemplate” the deeper questions of life.
Ultimately, the existential quandary may result in a “leap of faith,” a la Kierkegaard, but it doesn’t have to be a completely blind leap. There may be clues.
Obviously we will never have all the answers. And maybe our “answers” are wrong, but, as C. S. Lewis implied, some will be closer to the truth than others. So maybe we should at least think beyond our daily routine and look for footprints in the sand.