The Old Man
The Old Man
He made up his mind after he had become severely depressed. He grabbed a paper and wrote: “Katrina, my love, I’m leaving for good. I will end my misery that never seems to abandon me. To put it frankly: I will end my life. Forgive me, and may the children forgive me too.”
•He proceeded to carry out his plan …
He was hesitant, though he reconsidered the situation many a time. He could not find a way out of what he was suffering from except by committing suicide. He was walking at a slow pace, talking to himself: “Am I really sick? Katrina always says that I am! She always urges me to have faith and be certain (about God and His help), and repeatedly she says to me:
•“Doubt is a disease, George, do not surrender to it.”
Even his father thought he was sick.
He was always repeating to him that the disease of suspicion is a genetic one and that it was transferred to George from his mother’s family.
He always advised him to stop thinking like that, lest he ended up in a psychiatric clinic! His boss at work too, Kach the Jew, laughed at him often, and told him in a sympathetic and satirical tone:
•“Dear George, I’m upset for you so much. You occupy yourself uselessly. What you think about doesn’t make you wealthier, and even deprives you from enjoying life.”
George was thirty-eight years old, and was married to Katrina, British like him, but of Indian descent.
They had married ten years earlier and were blessed with three beautiful children: Mary the eldest (she was supposed to be ten, but she died at the age of seven), Michael (eight years) and Sally (six years).
Since the time his eldest daughter Mary had died in a car accident, and because of his continual thinking on the meaning of life and death, as well as his love of philosophy and his sharp intelligence, his head had become overcrowded with questions.
George was an avid reader, he loved reading about philosophy, history and religions, and perhaps this is what prompted him to marry the Catholic Katrina, a teacher of Theology.
George found in her faith a certainty that he missed, in spite of him being a Protestant, for while he was suspicious and skeptical of almost everything and questioned anything, he much admired her acceptance of what he doubted and her total submission and resignation, but always justified himself (for having doubts) with the excuse that he possesses an intelligence, reason and logic that the faithful Katrina was not aware of. He endlessly had discussions with her on these topics. These dialogues seemed to be between the mind that he represented and the faith and submission that she represented, or between his true sense of reality and her imaginary idealism. Yet it seemed to Katrina to be dialogues between the submission and certainty that she represented and between the doubts and disease which he represented. Such dialogues always ended in a long silence, and if it was not for the love they felt towards each other they would have divorced years ago.
However, George’s increasing uncertainty following the death of his daughter affected these dialogues between them, making them more intense and difficult. His mind was dominated and occupied with weighty questions, such as: Why are we created? What do we live for? What is our fate? Although these questions seemed simple and easy, yet they are very complex, and it was for that reason that intelligent philosophers who formed the concepts of existence and life tackled them. He thought that the answer to these questions would result in stability for mankind, its quietude and happiness.
As he was walking on his way to commit suicide, many scenes of his life flashed before his eyes. He remembered his daughter struggling with death in the ambulance on her way to the hospital; but death defeated her, taking away her beauty and her life, and taki ng his spirit with her. He remembered his son, Michael, who asked him one day when he looked exhausted from the pressures of work:
•Michael: Dad, why do you go to work every day?
• George: In order to have a goal in life, and to provide you with what you need and love.
• Michael: What do you mean by a goal in life?!
• George: Serving the people and benefiting mankind.
• Michael: Why?!
George let loose a sigh, feeling that the question shook him vigorously from the inside, then he answered his son:
•George: For a great reason that you might never know, and neither I!
• Michael: You’re big, Dad, and yet you do not know that reason! When I grow up I’ll know everything, I’ll not leave anything great without knowing it.
• George: Michael…forget it my darling...
He laughed and said to himself: “This is the advice given to me on a daily basis: ‘Forget these questions and enjoy your life.’” He then went on to say to his son:
•George: Don’t worry, I’ll answer you someday.
• Michael: Dad, you finished your studies and have read a lot, and you still do not know!
• George: Have you finished your homework, my darling?
• Michael :Yes, Dad.
• George: Then goodnight, son.
He went on speaking to himself as he walked with burdened steps: “It seems that I am sick indeed as Katrina says, or an imbecile wasting my life away as Kach says, or may be as my father says, or ignorant as little Michael says! Michael’s probably right, but the funny thing is that I answered him as the others had answered me: ‘Forget it!’ It seems that I’ve learned to look for any means to escape to just continue living, like other people do!” On his way to the place where he wanted to commit suicide, he remembered the day when he was attacked by severe depression. He had drunken wine until he had become totally drunk, then went out driving and collided into a wall. He scrambled out of his car staggering, clutching onto a book that he had taken with him entitled The Philosophy of Happiness. The Traffic policemen grabbed him, saying:
•Policeman: Is that the philosophy of happiness or that of suicide?! Do not you know the offense of drunk driving?!
Katrina bailed him out of the traffic station, and she said to him:
•Katrina: You shouldn’t have driven while you were drunk.
George replied to her sarcastically:
•George; Isn’t this your advice to me; to forget?
• Katrina: Yes, but not in this way.
• George: Why do you stay up and drink (alcohol) every day?
• Katrina: I drink and celebrate in ceremonies in the service of Christ, in Church.
Mischievously, George said to her:
•George: A sacred cup and a blessed hallucination, or is it another way for escaping?!
• George continued: The dialogue with you has become tiresome! You are afraid of thinking, and you run to the bottle and stay up late, exactly like I do, but you dress what you do with a robe of sacredness.
George’s words were very harsh ones. Katrina sighed sadly with frustration, and then said:
•Katrina: At least I don’t need a psychiatrist like you!
• George: Maybe! Who knows?!
While he was on his way that seemed very long for him, his head was about to burst from the thoughts and memories colliding in it, and the feelings of hesitance and bewilderment alarmingly storming him.
He looked at the movement of people around him, and saw them as being soulless, meaningless machines in motion, and wondered to himself how people allowed themselves to become such soulless machines. As he was walking dejectedly he saw a seventy-year-old man happily playing with his grandson.
The old man’s smiles and laughs gripped his attention and curiosity and so he approached him and said:
•George: Sorry to interrupt, are you happy?
The old man looked up to him in surprise and said:
•Old man: Yes... Then he went on playing with his grandson.
George interrupted him again and asked:
•George: How? I mean, why are you happy? What do you live for?
The old man scrutinized him closely and then said:
•Old man: You’ve just answered your own question.
• George: How?
• Old man: I’m happy because I know what I am living for, it is that simple.
• George: What should I live for? Please tell me.
• Old man: Ask yourself that question! I can’t answer that question, only your soul and your life should answer it.
• George: I beg you tell me.
• Old man: I just told you that this question must be answered by simply both your soul and your life; I can’t tell you something about which your own soul and life are not convinced.
Then the old man continued firmly:
•Old man: Are you a teenager who wants me to dictate to you my vision of life and the universe, or are you used to being dependent on others? Please don’t distract me from playing with my grandson.
• George: I apologize again, but how can my soul and my life answer me?
• Old man: I feel sincerity in your words so let me tell you something: If you look at a necklace, you’ll find that its beads can’t be kept together except by a thin thread that arranges them to make a beautiful necklace. Likewise, our lives must have a fine thread of knowledge, which is the reason for which we live and exist...and are happy, as well.
• George: How? Tell me!
• Old man: If you are honest then the key to the answer is in searching, with perseverance and determination, and attempting to reach an aim.
• George: Reach what?
• Old man: Happiness!
• George: How?
• Old man: Look for the path to happiness! Your soul will find company, and your life and the universe will have a meaning! Please excuse me, but don’t take any more of my time; I want to play with my grandson.
• George: Alright... alright, I don’t know this road to happiness, but perhaps if I persist I might reach it, as you say! That is, if it does exist in the first place!
• Old man: It does exist, believe me, otherwise life wouldn’t have any meaning. In any case, please bring me the good news when you do find the answer, and you’ll find it if you are determined. You’ll learn the meaning of how your soul and your life give you the answers. You’ll find the thread that gives meaning to all sides of your life.
• George: I hope so, but what’s your name and where do you live?
• Old man: If I’m still alive by then, you will find me at this place, at this time, every Friday. If you give me your address, and I shall send you my address later.
Then he turned to his grandson and threw him the ball.
•George: Thank you, this is my address.
After he gave him his address he walked away. He strolled along a little. He felt a form of fatigue and tiredness that he had never felt before, not even on the days when he was overburdened by work.
He decided to drink a little alcohol, to regain some of his strength and his mind, for he felt that his head was on the verge of bursting.
However, he over-drank and started staggering all over the place.
He soon started feeling so dizzy that all the features of things around him became lost, and he fainted while walking in the street.
People gathered around him and started to carry him, so he pulled himself up and told them where he lived.
At the door, he found Katrina crying and sobbing for him.
When she saw him, she ran towards him and threw herself tearfully on his chest. He said:
•George: This is me, still alive, unfortunately, not dead.
• Katrina: Thank God for your safety. I was so scared. Why are you thinking of suicide?
• George: To get rid of that robot named George! The machine that doesn’t know the meaning of his existence and life, and whose soul keeps dying and feels miserable all the time. If it wasn’t for the old man who I met on the road and if it wasn’t for the wine, I would have ridden myself from this life!
• Katrina: Who is this old man that you are speaking of?!
• George said sarcastically: I don’t know, but he was happy and knows how to live.
• Katrina: I don’t understand anything of what you are saying, but thank God you are safe!
• George: Even I didn’t understand it properly. All that I did understand is that the path to happiness needs perseverance, exploration and determination in order to reach the destination.
• Katrina: The path to happiness! You will reach it eventually my darling! What is important is that you do not lose your life doing that. We need you.
• George (laughing): I’ll try not to lose my life so that I can search until I find the answer and be happy, like that old man.
Katrina noticed fatigue on his face. She held his hand and helped him to get to the bedroom and to lie down on the bed.
The occurrences of that day kept going through his head, over and over again, like horrific ghosts, until he fell into a deep sleep.