The Man Who Learnt to Question

The bearded young man returns to the wise man, to the castle of books, to the womb of wisdom and he says; “You have taught me, led me, to question. The art of deconstruction. Handed me the brush to sweep away the dust. But now I only find uncertainty, I have no opinions, I make no decision with which I am content, and everything that ejaculates itself from my mouth tastes foul, and reeks of bullshit.”

The wise man nods and twists the corners of his mouth toward the parapets; “Then you must speak only those words of which you are certain. You will thus be forced to find these truths for yourself.”

The bearded young man turns away silently. Walking back through the cacophonous jungle, and a sentence forms on the edge of his tongue; ‘If I only speak those words of which I am certain, I will never speak another word!’ Ha, the first real truth, and this in a strange loop. His toe spins around his heel, two steps back the way he came to proclaim his new-found solitary truth to the wise old man, and a twisting in his stomach, the sound of a clogged drain, and he is reminded that that bowl of oats was a long time ago. He stops, and his toe spins again around his heel. ‘Hunger; of this I am certain!’

Back through the jungle and he fortuitously comes across a noodle house, pushes the swing doors apart and seats himself at the long plastic draped table.
She stomps over; “do you know what you want?”
“No” One word that runs the rails.
She stomps away, the greasy plastic card pushed around on the plastic tablecloth, he spins the soy sauce bottle idly between his fingers. She stomps back over, “do you know what you want yet?”
“Are you hungry?”

Flashing image of the archetypal empathy inducing, emaciated generic African child; the crumpled form of a soviet work camp prisoner. ‘They are hungry, surely. Then this is not hunger.’ A pained look at her shaking head and he slides back out through the swing doors.

The knobbly trunk of a great red gum presses against his back; he sits, staring that blank stare, and the cogs are turning. ‘If one cannot begin at hunger, then where? This is a red gum, angophora costata. This is someone else’s word, not my knowledge; at the end of summer, once her skin has turned grey and before her décolletage is divested of this dull drapery, put her next to a eucalyptus camaldulensis and I wont know the difference. What does the name mean? Did you not just read that maybe this costata is better named a eucalypt? Even the dendrologists are not sure.’

His beard grows longer and begins to knot, his ribs and skin pitted against each other as a sheet over a clothesline. A passing traveller spots the shabbily bearded starving young man, still sitting beneath his unnamed tree, “Hello sir, is everything ok?”

“No!” Flung from his mouth with vehemence. ‘Are you not a part of this world, do you not see? No everything is not ok. I think, or… maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be, maybe this is exactly ok.’ The traveller retreats a half step, motionless for a moment, quickly continues on his way.

“I don’t know actually.” The dreadlock-bearded wafer of a young man whispers to his back.

‘I need to eat, or I will die… the fasting monk who didn’t eat for seventy years.’

‘I want to eat’, “I want to eat!”

His palms on the sandy soil, he presses downward, lifting his frame, one, two centimeters from the ground, no further will these eroded muscles take him. He pines for the angry noodle lady. But she does not stomp this far into the jungle. He finds his final truth.

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