“What Would I Do If…?”

Hello. My name is Oliver and I’m addicted to thinking.

I can’t help it – whoever made me put a motor in my brain. And I know that it causes just as many problems – if not more – than it helps solve, but… like the scorpion said to the frog, this is my nature. This is who I am. As such, I must turn to face it, no matter how reluctantly, rather than keep devising ways to run from it.

Of course, most of my thoughts are used up on bullshit and the inconsequential, but every now and then, I surprise myself by going down a more useful mental avenue. One of the best uses I have found for my chronically hyperactive mind is to pose a question to myself, and to repeatedly ask that same question until I feel myself give an honest answer.

What I mean by an honest answer is an answer that feels true.

I don’t know about you, but most of my thoughts don’t feel true. They sound true, and if I’m not careful, I fall for it. But there’s a huge difference between a thought that sounds true and one that feels true. I can’t describe that difference other than by saying that you will know it when you find it.

Here’s how I see it:

I’m the teacher, standing in front of the class. I pose my question. The swotty kids on the front desks thrust their hands desperately into air, champing at the bit to offer me their brilliant answer, salivating in anticipation of their genius being recognised as such by a superior.

My eyes go past the swatty kids, and I notice one of the cool kids at the back fold her arms and roll her eyes. I ask her what she thinks. She won’t tell me. I want to press her for an answer, but I pause. I decide to negotiate. If I ask every other student before her, then will she consider giving me her answer? She shrugs and reluctantly agrees.

I get the swatty kids on the front desks out of the way first. Each gives a different answer that sounds equally impressive and means equally little.

Then I make my way through the kids in the middle of the room. Now, these kids offer answers with simpler language, and that make a lot of earthy sense, but none of them bowl me over.

There are just a few left to ask now, on the back row. These kids give me the simplest answers of all, and yet I am moved by each and every one. There is depth. There is life. There is reality. There is a deafening lack of bullshit. These kids know something.

Finally, I get to Little Miss Shrugs-Her-Shoulders-And-Rolls-Her-Eyes. Her answer breaks my heart.

That is why you have to keep asking yourself the same question, over and over. Don’t be satisfied with your first few answers. Get through the swatty kids who disguise their lack of substance with peacock-like verbiage. Get through the middle kids who are less impressive but a little more down-to-earth. Get through the kids at the back of the room, who will tell you what you might not want to hear but what you need to hear.

But don’t stop until you to get to that last girl. She’s where it’s at.

PS: Why not ask yourself this one: “What would I do if a pandemic meant I had to stay at home for the next few months?”

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