05 May

Missed Opportunities (part 10)

“Yes.” His certainty was off-putting. It seemed almost out-of-character.

“Don’t you every wonder why?”

“I’m a philosophy major. That’s all I do.”

I chuckled.

“Look, it’s simple. There’s a switch on the wall. You turn it on, you might die. You do nothing, you won’t die. What do you do?”

I had to think about it for a second, but yeah, the way he phrased it, it was obvious. You do nothing. “Point taken. But still, you never get curious? After years of not turning the switch on?”

“Look, I’ll tell you a quick story.” He folded his blade back into the handle. “The first college class of my life, the professor came out with a small black box with a question mark painted on it. He set it down in front of the lecture hall and asked us what we thought was in it. People took all sorts of guesses and then one kid finally raised his hand and said, “˜the answer.’ “˜Yes!’ the professor shouted, and he went on to give a basic definition of philosophy as the “˜history of human questing after answers.’

“Well, every week, he brought that box back and used it to make some new point about the kinds of questions we ask or about the underlying cultural assumptions we make or about what it means for something to exist, right? He never ran out of lessons based on the box. I mean, this guy was a really good professor. You went to class just to hear what he’d say about that damned box.

“And then, on the last day of the semester, he asked us all if we wanted to know what was in the box. Everyone shouted yes, of course. And then he asked, “˜Shall I open the box?’ And again, everyone shouted yes. We were like crazed children, poised on the edges of our chairs. But then that one kid – the one who had raised his hand on the first day of class – he raised his hand again and said, “˜No, don’t open it.’ And everyone went nuts. They were yelling at him and calling him crazy. But the professor quieted us all down and said, “˜Think about this. Think about it for a few minutes. And if your answer’s no, you may leave. I’ll see you on the day of the final. I’ll be back in ten.’

“And with that, he walked out of the room, and we all sat there, dumbstruck. Minutes ticked by; people were kind of whispering to each other. And then one by one, people started leaving. They started filing out the back door. And I mean, everybody. After ten minutes, everybody had left. Except me.

“When the professor came back – it had been more like 20 minutes, actually – I was the only one left. And he asked again, “˜Shall I open the box?’ And I went down to the front of the lecture hall and said, “˜Yes.’

“So he unlocked it -it had been locked, of course – and he opened it up. But I didn’t look inside. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Cuz it’s more fun not knowing.” He flipped his knife open and came at me.

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