>Some time ago, although not so long ago that things looked very different to the way they are now, there lived a family and, in particular, a young boy in the family, whose name is not important to the story, but if you should want to give him a name, why not something memorable, like Agar or Gaboo. These were not the sort of names people really ever had, despite what you might think, but if it helps you to place some “perspective” on this story, then go right ahead and assume that the world in which the boy lived contained swords or stone wheels or spacecraft.
Nonetheless, Agar (which is what we shall call him as there have been no objections nor better suggestions thus far) was an inquisitive boy, and was forever seeking answers to questions that no one had ever really expected there to be answers for. This made him something of a distraction to others, as he was forever seeking counsel on such matters as the whereabouts of his knees when he stood up, or where bats went during the day or crows at night. Indeed, Agar was seen—in the eyes of many who encountered him—as something of a nuisance.
While some of his questions could be brushed off with vague pseudo-science or folksy homilies, one particular question of Agar’s vexed—above all others—all who were asked it. It concerned, quite simply, the act of life, something in which all the inhabitants of Agar’s town immersed themselves in quite without worrying about its component details. What is life? Agar would ask, his little face scrunched almost into a question mark (an aspect of Agar’s physiognomy that most people found particularly irksome: that someone could facially manifest punctuation was almost more offensive than the question itself).
What is life? The more people Agar asked, the more vague and diluted the answer got. When he had exhausted the intellectual capacity of his own (admittedly mentally exhausted) family, he moved on to neighbours, to elders, to prominent members of the community. None could provide an answer. When, after even the leader of the town—a charismatic woman had assumed responsibility for the day-to-day running of the borough on the back of a campaign that stressed her proven and hard-earned “innate genius”—failed to provide Agar with even a semblance of an answer (the best she could manage was a sort of glottal groan that those around could only approximate as the word “hair”, which they were sure wasn’t right), a fund was announced to enable Agar to travel to the far side of the country where there dwelt a wise old man, whose wisdom, while only anecdotal, was at least sufficiently geographically removed to enable the townsfolk a well-earned rest from Agar’s annoying, scrunched-up face and all his whiny questions.
Before the day was up, the funds were raised, and it was agreed that Agar should begin his journey without fail. He left with the good wishes of all those in the town, and reminded that if he wanted to stop anywhere along the way, well, why not? There was nothing like taking a few days (weeks, months) to idle along and enjoy the scenery. And so Agar left, with a bright flame of curiosity burning deep in his belly, determined to reach the wise man and solve the mystery that had driven him forward at the core of his life for so long. But what were these mysteries when the greatest question—life—remained unsolved? He strode off with a solid purpose and an enviable speed.
And what of Agar, and the wise man? Did they ever meet? Did they discover the meaning of life? Well, that–as they say—is the question.
Nearly three months passed, and no one in the village heard tell of any news from Agar or the wise old man. Life in the town had become quieter, certainly, since Agar’s departure, and people no longer stayed home in the afternoons for fear of running into him. Whole families strode out confidently in the late summer sun, letting their heads relax, with nothing but a warm breeze to fill them. The leader of the town took to jogging, waving at all the contented faces she passed and soon the main street was full of flowers, tended to by simple folk with simple dreams. Everyone smiled. After a year, Agar was almost forgotten. Only his family had the occasional moment where they would sense some small part of the world had shifted out of place. But they had, by this time, formed a dance troupe, so they were usually too busy to start thinking.