Meditation, of course, the answer is meditation.
Not 42 as it turns out.
Although 42 is the answer to many things, including what age Elvis Presley was when he died. Two of my heros, Elvis Presley and Douglas Adams linked in the dance of life and death. Like many people, i remember where i was when the news of Elvis’ death broke – i was staying in a B&B in Donegal Town, a B&B that still exists. When i called looking for accomodation that evening, it was already full but the kind landlady put me up in a fold-up bed in the sitting room.
Not mountains either;
That was the summer my love of Donegal and its mountains and valleys developed. I was working as a student geologist taking soil samples and cycling around the county staying in B&B’s – happy days climbing mountains and splashing through streams.
That was 1977, different times. And yet the cycle of life continues to revolve – i’ve spent the last couple of weeks taking soil samples on a couple of development sites in Dublin 4 – some of the most expensive soil in Ireland – everything changes while it stays the same.
Not music either – although the music of our heroes provide many answers and each generations’ musicians speak to them of the time and the society in which they live. ONe of my favourite Elvis songs was always ‘In the Ghetto’
‘People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day?
Take a look at you and me
Are we too blind to see
Do we simply turn our heads, and look the other way?’
More questions than answers and still so relevent today.
Not reading either, or travel, even intergalactice travel;
About the same time that Elvis was passing on and i was cycling the lenght and breadth of Donegal, Douglas Adams was developing the plot and characters for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which was broadcast as a radio comedy on the BBC in 1978 and published as a book in 1979. I fell in love with the book immediately and reread it and the other books in the trilogy many times over the years. Those days i used to do a lot of hitchhiking too, though never ventured beyond Ireland, never mind the boundaries of our planet.
Got used to carrying a towel though.
“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.””
Still more unanswered questions.
Not laughter, though it provides some comfort;
I was in a car one sunny morning about that time, hitching from Killarney back to college in Galway and we were listening to a phone-in quiz show on the radio. The presentator was Larry Gogan and the quiz was the ‘Just a Minute Quiz’; callers had one minute to answer questions. This morning the question which was proving to be a sticking point was “As happy as ???”, and the contestant was struggling – Monday morning is probably not a good time to enter a radio quiz. Larry, as was his way, tried to be helpful and gave clues about himself and his name, expecting the struggling quizzer to understand and give the correct answer which was, of course, ‘Larry’. Our contestant though was on a different track and suddenly had a gleam of genius, ‘As happy as a pig in shit’, was his answer, a saying well known in Irish circles, not just agricultural, but not what you would expect to hear on Irish radio in those by-gone days. The nation burst out laughing, as did my driver, so heartedly indeed that we swerved off the road and very nearly crashed. Larry with great aplomb suggested that ‘Larry’ would be more correct and a new entrant joined Irish radio folklore.
Not alcohol, or any other form of drugs
Alcohol is used as an answer for many, both individually and culturally. Its the performance drug of choice of the travelling Irish fans who use it more than abuse it. My own consumption ultimately put paid to another of my escape routes, sport.
Not sport either;
Sport, of course, is a form of escapism for many, a form of tribalism, of belonging so that you don’t have to ask the questions or realise that you don’t know the answers. Sport helped me preserve my sanity for many years and running still does. Sometimes an activity avoids the answers rather than provides them and sport certainly falls into this category.
Each of these things are wonderful in their own way, and in moderation and in good company and if uplifting and positive. But they are not the answer to life and if consumed to excess than represent a waste of a life rather than a life well lived.
“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.“
“But it was the Great Question! The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything,” howled Loonquawl.
“Yes,” said Deep Thought with the air of one who suffers fools gladly, “but what actually is it?”
A slow stupefied silence crept over the men as they stared at the computer and then at each other.
“Well, you know, it’s just Everything … Everything …” offered Phouchg weakly.
“Exactly!” said Deep Thought. “So once you know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”
The answer to life, the universe and everything, including happiness is ‘meditation’.
And i’m only beginning to understand it now.
Unless you are a pig of course, in which case the secret to happiness may be found in an answer to an Irish quiz show some forty years ago.
My meditation journey is still only starting, a bit like my journey to be a runner.
Try meditation my friends, and running of course, try running too.
Don’t give up if it seems difficult – it is difficult and they don’t refer to it as ‘practicing meditation’ for no reason.
Running, on the other hand, is easy.