Porque Estamos Aqui Nosotros

[This is a story created to be read aloud at the Story Salon reading group in Studio City, Los Angeles.]

     When I was young I went to university in England. In the city of Canterbury to be exact. It is a three-year school, which took me four years to complete, which is another story for another day.
     At intermittent times during my university career, -depending on my whim, and usually how much cider I had been drinking- I kept asking the people I met one specific question.
     I was never given an answer that made me happy. Happy is not the right word. I was never given an answer that felt right. And answer that resonated in my subconscious.
     It was not until escaping from England for a summer back in California that an answer resonated somewhere deep down and just felt right.
     But I’m getting ahead of myself.
     The question:
     “Why are we here?”

     It’s a very simple question, no complex words, no hyphens or semi-colons. Just four simple words that create some huge quandaries.
     It was university, so I spent most of my time drinking and trying not to think, which is the point of university, right?
     And just on a side note, I highly recommend Scrumpy Jack Cider, with six percent alcohol, and a wonderful dry and sweet taste. It’s known as both the philosophers and the homeless mans drink. Which might sometimes be one in the same.
     But I digress again, so back to considering the meaning of life, (42).
     I spent a lot of my time in pubs, both in Canterbury and a nearby town called Whitstable, while drinking in these dens of philosophy, in between discussion of women and who was buying the next round, I would pop the question.
     “So… Why are we here?”
     “Um… to drink?” came the often answer that was more of a question.
     “No reason” was another answer I received a couple times. I hung out with a lot of nihilists at the time.
     I can go back now and look at what I was doing, I was questioning all the things that had been taught to me, and realizing that none of them made sense.
     Christianity, upon which I was raised, seemed like a bunch of men who had twisted words around so that they could use them to control other people. I could find no reason to believe in any one of the thousands of gods that abounded about the world. And I could definitely not believer in any of the power structures that controlled the idea of those gods on earth.
     But I had nothing to replace it with.
     So it asked the question.
     It wasn’t until later that I realized that I didn’t need to replace it with anything.

     “Why are we here?” I asked my mom at a random moment. I liked catching people off guard with the question. It seemed more natural if they answered at the spur of the moment.
     “To serve God.” She answered.
     This answer bothered me, it riled up my spine and scratched nails on the chalkboard. And I had to go off drinking, and not think about it for a while to figure out why this annoyed me so much.
     It annoyed me because my mother is the greatest person on the planet. She is kind, generous, loving, all the things that you want in a person. What annoyed me is that it was easier to put all the Christians (and all the other religions as well) in this neat little box of scoff and hate.
     If someone said they were religious, I could smile and be nice, while mentally pigeonholing them as useless and stupid. But my mother was not useless and stupid, she was wonderful.
     Which made me realize that it is impossible to generalize about groups. I hate –insert group here- statements are stupid and pointless and the realm of the mentally weak.
     It was at this same time that I realized that morality has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. They all seem to say that they are the bastions of what is good and right, but their actions are completely different. A good person is a good person, no what matter religion or non-religion they subscribe to. A bad person is still bad, no matter what excuse they use to be bad.

     “Why are we here?”
     “To work our fingers to the bone and receive a gold watch.”
     “Work all our lives, to finally have time off when you’re too old to enjoy it.”
     Both of these answers scared the hell out of me.
     I was doing a business management degree at university. The only reason I was doing this is because I had no idea what else to do. I was on the track that I was supposed to be following: High School, College, then a job cubicle in an anonymous building. I hated that idea. There was no way I was going to spend my life as a middle manager in a pointless company doing something I hated.
     But I had no idea what else to do. No idea of where else to go.
     So I asked this question, searching for some sort of answer to what to do with my life.

     I kept asking the question, to random people and friends, but the answers began to all sound alike, there was nothing new. Slowly the question faded from my mind, and I asked it of people less and less often.
     It was not that I had given up questioning, I felt that the answer was out there, even though every past generation had wrestled with these exact thoughts, and found no suitable answer.

     During the summers I went back to California and worked in restaurants. During the last summer I was working at a tiny gourmet place on Pacific Coast Highway. It was quiet, with only six tables.
     In the afternoons there were usually no customers and so it was just the three of us: the cook, the dishwasher and I. After everything was clean, and there were no customers to help I would get bored. One day I asked the cook the question.
     This is California, so all the cooks and dishwashers are Hispanic. The cook spoke English perfectly, but he seemed confused by the question and gave no answer.
     I went and asked the dishwasher, and he didn’t answer the question for a completely different reason, he spoke no English.
     So the cook taught me how to ask in Spanish.
     “¿Porque estamos aqui nosotros?”
     I went back and asked the dishwasher, and I think he answered my question.
     His was the one answer that made any sense to me, it resonated in my sub-conscious. I felt somehow suddenly free. I still don’t know how or why it made me feel that way but it did.
     His answer was this:
     “Porque mi madre y padre caliente en un noche.”
     Or for those of you who don’t speak Spanish.
     “Because my mother and father were hot one night.”
     I have yet to come up with a better answer.

One Response to “Porque Estamos Aqui Nosotros”

  1. Only connect says:

    […] morning I read something my friend Ben wrote about his search for an answer to the question “why are we here…. About halfway through the story what popped into my head was the phrase “only connect.” […]