Friday, March 14, 2008

Why Ask Why? Don't Ask the Mustard Man.


There's a joke I learned from one of my students that goes, "What kind of animal says, 'Why?' all the time?"

The person you ask thinks about it for a while, maybe takes a guess, and then gives up. Then you say, "A pig."

The person thinks about it again, but doesn't understand, so asks, "Why?"

You point at the person and say, "Ha! You're a pig!"

This morning just before waking up I was having a dream. I don't remember what it was about, but at one point I was going through my refrigerator and I found that I had three almost-empty squeeze containers of yellow mustard, plus at least four half-empty jars of various other kinds of mustard.

The next thing I knew I was at school (not a real school) and one of the other teachers (not a real teacher) was bawling out some little kid for something he did. He was really angry, and he kept asking the kid, "Why? Why did you do that?"

I started talking to him and telling him that, just like there was no reason for me to have seven containers of mustard in my refrigerator--and yet there they were--there was likely no reason that the little kid did what he did. There was no why, and in life there often is no why. By searching for a reason that doesn't exist, we just cause ourselves anxiety, and even if we find the answer, it doesn't change the fact of the thing.

As the dream started to fade, I realized that, in the way only possible in dreams, I was the angry teacher as well as the mustard man. When I first woke up immediately after the dream, it seemed like I'd reached some kind of momentous realization about life. Now, about an hour later, it doesn't seem so profound.

Why?

Ha! You're a pig!

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