This simple story, from Robert Fulghum’s book, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It, is a profound reminder of the healing, purifying and transformative power of forgiveness and the innate goodness of humankind.
ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS?
by Robert Fulghum
“Are there any questions?” An offer that comes at the end of college lectures and long meetings. Said when an audience is not only overdosed with information, but when there is no time left anyhow. At times like that you sure do have questions. Like, “Can we leave now?” and “What the hell was this meeting for?” and “Where can I get a drink?”
The gesture is supposed to indicate openness on the part of the speaker, I suppose, but if in fact you do ask a question, both the speaker and the audience will give you drop-dead looks. And some fool—some earnest idiot—always asks. And the speaker always answers. By repeating most of what he has already said.
But if there is a little time left and there is a little silence in response to the invitation, I usually ask the most important question of all: “What is the Meaning of Life?”
You never know, somebody may have the answer, and I’d really hate to miss it because I was too socially inhibited to ask. But when I ask, it’s usually taken as a kind of absurdist move—people laugh and nod and gather up their stuff and the meeting is dismissed on that ridiculous note.
Once and only once, I asked that question and got a serious answer. One that is with me still.
First, I must tell you where this happened, because the place has a power of its own. In Greece again.
Near the village of Gonia, on a rocky bay of the island of Crete, sits a Greek Orthodox monastery. Alongside it, on land donated by the monastery, is an institute dedicated to human understanding and peace, and especially to rapprochement between Germans and Cretans. An improbable task, given the bitter residue of wartime.
This site is important, because it overlooks the small airstrip at Maleme where Nazi paratroopers invaded Crete and were attacked by (more…)