**spoiler alert** “François Rabelais. He was this poet. And his last words were ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps.’ That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have**spoiler alert** “François Rabelais. He was this poet. And his last words were ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps.’ That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.”
“I can unpack, Mom,” I said. My dad stood. He was ready to go. “Let me at least make your bed,” Mom said. “No, really. I can do it. It’s okay.” Because you simply cannot draw these things out forever. At some point, you just pull off the Band-Aid and it hurts, but then it’s over and you’re relieved.
I must talk, and you must listen, for we are engaged here in the most important pursuit in history: the search for meaning. What is the nature of being a person? What is the best way to go about being a person? How did we come to be, and what will become of us when we are no longer? In short: What are the rules of this game, and how might we best play it?” The nature of the labyrinth, I scribbled into my spiral notebook, and the way out of it. This teacher rocked. I hated discussion classes. I hated talking, and I hated listening to everyone else stumble on their words and try to phrase things in the vaguest possible way so they wouldn’t sound dumb, and I hated how it was all just a game of trying to figure out what the teacher wanted to hear and then saying it. I’m in class, so teach me. And teach me he did: In those fifty minutes, the Old Man made me take religion seriously. I’d never been religious, but he told us that religion is important whether or not we believed in one, in the same way that historical events are important whether or not you personally lived through them. And then he assigned us fifty pages of reading for the next day—from a book called Religious Studies.
THE NEXT DAY, Dr. Hyde asked me to stay after class. Standing before him, I realized for the first time how hunched his shoulders were, and he seemed suddenly sad and kind of old. “You like this class, don’t you?” he asked. “Yessir.” “You’ve got a lifetime to mull over the Buddhist understanding of interconnectedness.” He spoke every sentence as if he’d written it down, memorized it, and was now reciting it. “But while you were looking out the window, you missed the chance to explore the equally interesting Buddhist belief in being present for every facet of your daily life, of being truly present. Be present in this class. And then, when it’s over, be present out there,” he said, nodding toward the lake and beyond. “Yessir.”
How it is: remembering only after having forgotten. I knew that I would know more dead people. The bodies pile up. Could there be a space in my memory for each of them, or would I forget a little of Alaska every day for the rest of my life?
I was left to ask, Did I help you toward a fate you didn’t want, Alaska, or did I just assist in your willful self-destruction?
She didn’t leave me enough to discover her, but she left me enough to rediscover the Great Perhaps.
How will you—you personally—ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Now that you’ve wrestled with three major religious traditions, apply your newly enlightened mind to Alaska’s question. After the exams had been passed out, the Old Man said, “You need not specifically discuss the perspectives of different religions in your essay, so no research is necessary. Your knowledge, or lack thereof, has been established in the quizzes you’ve taken this semester. I am interested in how you are able to fit the uncontestable fact of suffering into your understanding of the world, and how you hope to navigate through life in spite of it...And so that is the question I leave you with in this final: What is your cause for hope?”...more