Friday, 19 September 2008

Living an illusion part 2

During the sixties and seventies people pondered the meaning of life. The world was full of young people seeking alternatives to simple material gain. A favourite phrase, coined by Dr Timothy Leary, one of the gurus of the new age was Turn on, Tune in and Drop Out. Get out of the rat race, expand your consciousness and get in touch with what is happening around you.

One of the great all-time imponderables of life - the search for meaning - became a key focus. A time of rebellion, rejection of the 'establishment' and taking on new values were a feature of the youth.

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 this 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 thick black bushy beard!

At her funeral Murray just laughed. He couldn't help himself.

His grandmother's death had a profound effect on the boy and he found his thoughts turning more and more to the Secret of Life.

After completing his schooling Murray sought out an adventure.

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 hated so much.

His journey took him through India, to Opium dens, Hindu temples and the “Mighty Ganges”.

Travelling on a train one day Murray met a bearded guru that told him of a 330 year old Tibetan Lama 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 white 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 quest.

“Ever since I was a child I have wondered about the meaning of life. But when my granny died my thoughts turned to finding it. I have travelled through Europe and Asia. I have explored the length and breadth of India. Finally, my quest brought me to you. Will you tell me the secret of life?"

The old man puffed away at his pipe and took a sip from his 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 that it’s 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 been lining 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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