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The Philosophical Questions of Life

by Michael Lawrence


I always hate it when I'm being good and completely minding my own business when these stupid unwarranted philosophical queries manage to creep through my cranium. Just last week, I was sitting peacefully on the couch watching a rerun of "I Love Lucy" with my mind in a state of mental bliss when through some evil force of nature, I prompted myself with perhaps the dumbest question I ever asked: "Who am I?"

Once this question enters my mind, there is no stopping analyzing it to death. What a complete and utter waste of nerve impulses! I spent almost five days trying to tackle this when I could have been doing something much more constructive.

Ten things I could have spent my last five days doing that is more constructive (and ultimately less painful) than pondering the questions of life:

10. Starting a campaign for world peace.

9. Producing the world-premiere of "Pygmalion" in which all the actors stand on their heads.

8. Sticking my index fingers in my ears while whistling like a steam train.

7. Bathing.

6. Translating all of William Shakespeare's greatest works into Pig Latin.

5. Running for president while trying to escape from a straight jacket with a jack-o-lantern over my head.

4. Constructing a perpetual motion machine out of five index cards and a steel marble.

3. Proving, once and for all, that the human did NOT descend directly from apes. Rather humans descended directly from Ralph Nader.

2. Picking my nose.

1. Baking an upside down cake and eating it right side up.

Now that I have established what I should have been doing, I will tell you that I did none of that (except pick my nose a bit) this past five days. I have been pondering who I am almost constantly. I even had weird dreams about the subject, and I will certainly bring up one of those strange encounters a little later in this paper (providing you don't commit suicide by then).

Whenever I get these philosophical meanderings, I decide fully that I might not actually be who I think I am. Of course when my brain is functioning normally, I am pretty sure that I am one Michael Lawrence, human being, permanently confused college student, and resident of the planet Earth. However, every once in a while, apparently when my brain neurons temporarily shut down for maintenance, I get these strange notions in my head that I am not as such.

I usually go through this phase about once every two months when I think I could be a godchild and this world was created solely for me. Perhaps, in my actual life, my brain is currently attached to alligator clippers, and this world has been completely imagined. It's not that I would want to waste my whole actual life in a world such as this - this entire existence would only take a mere second in actual time - and once I pass out of this world, I would take a small break and move onto another. Its effect is kind of like television except it is absolutely intense, and I believe that I would return utterly entertained (probably laughing hysterically.)

However, I normally dismiss this notion after I defiantly speak out against one of my college professors, in the middle of lecture, proclaiming that nothing they tell me is of any practical use. (I normally do this anyway, but it's not until I start calling them 'imaginary' when I get into serious trouble.)

On sort of this same string of thought, what if I am a different being - such as an inanimate object - who pretends to be human simply because my actual life is too boring to pay any attention to? I once thought this notion was ridiculous. In the early stages of my philosophical musings, I was pretty sure this statement was correct: "I do not know exactly who I am, but I do know that I am not a hamburger." However, that great Greek philosopher Plato (he never gave me his last name on that fateful evening) visited me in my dream and convinced me otherwise. Here's what went on:

Me: For I know not who I am, but I do know that I am not a hamburger.

Plato: Alas, how do you know that you are not a hamburger?

Me: For I do not possess a patty of meat, two sesame seed buns do not surround me, and blood runs through my veins -- not ketchup.

Plato: But you could be a hamburger that thinks it's a human!

Me: If I am indeed a hamburger, methinks I wouldst be aware of it.

Plato: Not necessarily. Tell me something young lad: are you currently aware that a saber-toothed tiger is currently stalking you?

Me: No I am indeed not aware of that.

Plato: Thus I prove my point, sir, but methinks you had better run.

Me: Ok.

Come to think of it, there are far more hamburgers in the world than people, so the chance of me being a hamburger is greater than the chances of me being a human. I also have to consider the religious aspect of it. If the Buddhists are right and souls reincarnate, why would a soul like mine deserve to be a human being? What could I have possibly done as, say, an insect that would have earned me the rights to humanity? Did I rescue the king Caterpillar's cocoon from the hands of a pussy cat? Did I win a leaf-eating contest in the Butchart Gardens of British Columbia? Was I accidentally stepped on by the Dahlia Lama? Probably not. Considering the trillions and trillions of living species of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, etc. on the planet, the chances of me being a human are probably a trillion times worse than winning the lottery. The reason I don't play the lottery is that I know I won't win. Same thing with humanity - I had might as well just forget it.

This is where the hamburger comes in. It's inanimate; it's neither seemingly alive nor breathing. However, if living things can have a reincarnate soul, why can't inanimate objects such as this chair I'm sitting in? Now, I figure that if any soul was contained within a hamburger -- it wouldn't be able to move, speak, hear, see, feel, taste...nothing. In other words, the life of a hamburger is incredibly dull. It wouldn't even know what its purpose is or when it is being digested.

I think that the life of a hamburger is so utterly dull that it could just slip in a sub-conscious world of its own where it can live a decent life for itself. That is, what I'm guessing, that happened to me. I simply have it too good. I cannot possibly believe all this is really happening to me.

Also, I wouldn't want to screw up this life (i.e. telling college professors that they are but figments of my imagination) just so I wouldn't "wake up" and find myself in somebody's digestive track. That would be disgusting and likely make me lose my innocence.

Now that I have made myself utterly nauseous, I hope to drop this subject for, at least, the next two months. My only problem now is that I never figured out what happened to poor old Lucy.

All stories and photographs are copyright by Michael Lawrence.