You?re asking the wrong question Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Monday, 23 February 2009 22:17
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So, do you know why you are here? What it is that you’re supposed to do? Sounds vaguely familiar? Probably because it’s a question that has been posed in various degrees of incoherency in numerous smoke-filled rooms with red wine sloshing around in glasses.

Maybe the quality of glass gets better as you grow older, or you might upgrade from Tassies to Pinotage, but the question remains the same.

I think civilised humans are the only beings on this planet who don’t know what their purpose is. Most living things are born knowing. No one tells an animal what to do or how to do it. It instinctively knows.

Why don’t we? I’ve been reading a book that classifies humans as Takers or Leavers. Only the Takers ask this question. The Leavers have always known the answer.

However, ever since the agricultural revolution, Takers have started killing off Leavers. The only Leavers we have left today are the likes of the Bushmen and Australia’s Aborigines.

And they don’t really do anything, I hear you say. As in the clichéd old story about the rich man on holiday at a tropical island, meeting up with the native islander under the palm tree.

The islander is sitting on the beach, staring at the sunset. Rich Man asks him how he can just sit like that, doing nothing, wasting his time.

What else should I do, Islander asks. Well, you are nothing because you do nothing, Rich Man says. Me, on the other hand, I go to work every day. I sit in traffic and work hard from nine to five.

Why, Islander asks. So that I can make my mark – do things, go on holiday, buy things; get a better car to go to work with, a bigger house. And then, Islander asks, when you’ve worked all your life?

Well, then I’ll retire and sell everything and buy a retirement home at the beach. And what will you do there, Islander asks. Oh, I’ll have bought myself the luxury of free time, Rich Man says. And what will you do with it, Islander asks. I’ll finally have time to sit in the shade of a palm tree on the beach and watch the sun go down, Rich Man says.

Okay, I see that this little parable has reinforced your view of my alliance to the noble savage idea. Actually, just like you, I was born under Taker mythology. So, I’ll try explaining with Colleen-Joy Page’s story of the apple tree.

As a young sapling, the apple tree found himself in an orchard of age-old oranges. When asking the grown-up oranges what he should do, what his purpose in life was, they answered: Make oranges, of course.

Now, believe me, our apple tree tried his best. And failed. After a fire in the orchard, he was alone. No more orchard to tell him what to do.

He asked again: What is my purpose, what am I supposed to do? And his inner voice answered. “Your purpose is something you are, not something you’re supposed to do. When you are being yourself, you will do what you are supposed to do.”

And so the tree looked down at his body and said, “This is me! My leaves look like this, and my bark is like this”. One morning he looked out and his heart was filled with joy. He spoke softly: “I am an apple tree.” For there, packed on his branches were many apples.

Over decades new saplings started coming up in the old orchard. They looked up to the mature apple tree and asked: “What is our purpose? What is it that we are supposed to do?”

Our apple tree smiled broadly because he knew exactly what to say. “Ah, young trees, the answer is simple – you are asking the wrong question.”

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