Thursday, 12 June 2008

In search of the secret of life

The sixties and seventies were an age where people pondered the meaning of life. Money was not everything in those days and the world was full of young people seeking alternatives to simple material gain. Journeys to the east were not uncommon. Turn on, Tune in Drop Out! A favourite phrase, coined by Dr Timothy Leary, the guru of LSD and one of the gurus of the new age. Get out of the rat race, expand your conciousness and ‘tune-in’ to the universe.

The search for meaning - one of the all-time imponderables of life - became a key focus. It was a time of rebellion, rejection of the ‘establishment’ and taking on new values.

Murray had grown up in Hampstead - a good middle class suburb in North London. At the age of fifteen he had shoulder length hair and a bushy beard. He too was interested in finding out what it was all about. Why are we here? What are we doing on the planet, and what are we doing to it? In the same year his grandmother passed away. They had been very close in a rather strange way. She could never understand the long hair. A fifteen year-old with a beard! Or the drugs and the strange music. But at her funeral Murray just laughed. He couldn’t help himself. Her death had a profound effect on the boy and he found his thought turning more and more to the Secret or Life.

After completing his schooling Murray sought out an adventure. There must be someone in the world that could help in in his quest!

The journey began in London. Across the channel to Amsterdam. Hitch-hiking through Italy, Greece and on to Turkey. To Kabul in Afghanistan - home to some of the world’s finest hashish - and on across Asia. At every stop Murray asked the same question. “What is the secret of Life” but he got no answer. As the journey drew him eastward Murray began to get hints of a man that may be able to provide the answer. On to India. The gurus sent him here and there, but every lead was false.

Eighteen months of travelling, living as cheaply as he could was beginning to have its effects on the young Murray. He was missing his family and friends. Everything they did here was wrong. Murray began to miss those same conventional features of his home that he had left. His journey took him around India, to Opium dens and Hindu temples. The Mighty Ganges.

But travelling on a train one day Murray met a bearded guru that told him of a Tibetan Lama of 330 years that knew the secret of life. With a dwindling money supply Murray began this final stretch. As he neared his target more and more people confirmed the story.

High in the Himalayas was a little cabin. As Murray entered the dimply lit room his eyes fell on a man of infinite age. The Lama’s beard extended towards his belly and he was dressed in a simple robe. After sharing a bowl of rice, the old man asked Murray about his search.

Ever since I was a child I have wondered about the meaning of life. But when my granny died my thoughts turned to finding the secret of life. I have travelled through Europe and Asia. I have explored the length and breadth of India. Then my quest brought me to you. Do you know the secret of life?

The old man puffed away at his pipe and sipped a glass of water. “Young man,” he began. “The secret of life is something that I sought for many years. It is something that many are afraid to find. But I found it. Yes, I have the secret of life.”

The young man waited expectantly, but the Lama remained silent. “Would that be something that you would share with me?”

The old man took another long puff on his pipe and gazed at the young man’s eyes. “The secret of life” he began “is in old British army socks.

Murray could not believe what he was hearing. Old British army socks? He was angry. “I have travelled thousands of miles across the world to find the secret of life and you tell me old British army socks?


But Murray was adamant. “No. It is not possible. Old British army socks are not the secret of life!”

The old man stared in disbelief. “You mean I’ve lived all these years on an illusion?!” The Lama rolled over. He stopped breathing. He was dead.

Murray’s quest was over. He returned home penniless to begin a conventional life in the West. He knew that he would never find the answer.

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