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Revealed: The Meaning of Life

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Revealed: The Meaning of Life

Written by: Bruce Kasanoff | kasanoff.com

Author’s note: This piece is a work of fiction. It’s a three-minute read. If you stick with me, I’ll make it worth your while.

George was looking at a woman he was fairly certain had to be a figment of his imagination because she kept shifting in and out of solid form. She was explaining the meaning of the Universe (and also why he was unlikely to get a raise this year).

“The Universe is roughly 15 billion years old,” said Julie. “It’s vast. We barely understand our own planet, never mind the whole of existence. So it’s a pretty good bet that anything mankind makes up or invents has actually existed somewhere else for a long, long time.”

“Like microwave ovens, and cheeseburgers?” George prompted.

“Exactly. And computers, and technology that seems like magic.”

“Wireless phones,” interjected George, eager to understand. “They seem like magic, too.”

“That’s an ancient technology,” Julie corrected.

George is lost. “You’re saying wireless phones existed before mankind?”

“And computers. Really big computers. Huge ones.”

“Bigger than a planet big?” asked David. He was goofing around, but the look on Julie’s face suggested he got it.

“Yep.”

“Yes?” he tested.

“Yep,” she repeated.

“What would you do with a computer that… big?” he asked out loud.

“You could simulate life, for one thing,” explained Julie.

George put two and two together. “We’re living in a frigging computer?”

“George, you can’t take this too literally, but I think you’re close to the basic idea. I’m just trying to help you better understand the meaning of life.”

He smiled weakly. “That’s actually pretty kind of you.”

They sat in silence for a while. Quite a while. Then, out of the blue, George said, “This reminds me of Prodigy.”

“Excuse me?”

“Before the Web, there was a company named Prodigy – a joint venture of IBM and Sears, I think. They had the basic idea for a very limited version of the Web, but it was nearly impossible for them to explain it. They spent a fortune trying in vain to sell the service to consumers.”

Julie prompted him. “And this is relevant because…”

“It’s very hard to explain the Web to someone who has never experienced it. But once you do, it seems so obvious… and essential.”

“Just like it’s really hard for me to explain the true nature of the human condition,” said Julie.

“Yep. You’re the Prodigy of Imaginary All-Knowing Women.”

Julie thought about this for a second. “I think you just marginalized me.”

George smiled.

“Yes, but I know the meaning of life, and you don’t.”

George frowned. “One for your side.”

“Look, George. I can’t tell you how the Universe works any more than Prodigy could tell consumers why their little yellow box held something that one day would seem magical. But I can tell you that this dog-eat-dog struggle to make money and buy more toys… well that just ain’t it.”

A part of George already knew this.

“If you culminate your quest for knowledge with some Inc. article on How to Get Promoted, then you will have no greater insight than an ant crawling under a sidewalk. Seek out the magic, George. Follow the trails of what seems impossible.”

“You mean like sitting in a bar talking to a woman who keeps fading in and out of existence?”

Julie flickered, then smiled brightly. “Precisely. Anytime you see a person flicker in and out of existence, run – don’t walk – to talk to him or her. The same goes for anything you find curious, inexplicable, or simply fascinating.”

George nodded. This made some sense.

“One more thing, George.”

He looked across the table at her.

“Curiosity is the path to enlightenment. Certainty is the path to ignorance.”

“Should I write that down?” he asked.

“Definitely,” she said, and disappeared.

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