Unanswerable Questions

Being an erudite, sophisticated reader of “Like the Dew,” you probably already know what a “koan” is. Just in case, though: from Zen Buddhism, a “koan” (pronounced KOE-uhn) is a problem or riddle that lends itself to no logical solution; a so-called “unanswerable question.” Its purpose, among others, is to ask the brain to abandon reason, forego logic, and focus on the spiritual, the eternal.

The most famous example of a koan, at least in western culture, is probably: “If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Another fairly well-known koan: “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

But there are others, less well known…mainly because they’re questions that I have. Questions that, despite hours of meditation, I haven’t found suitable or acceptable answers to. Maybe you can help:

Why doesn’t the rest of the country understand that iced tea is a drink best served sweet?

In that realm, why doesn’t the rest of the country understand that “barbecue” means pork, NOT beef?

Is there a more silly type of headwear than a mortarboard?

If I went back in time and killed my great-great-grandfather, why would I do that? What do I have against my great-great-grandfather?

Re: time. Why does time slow down at work but speed up on weekends and vacations?

(This one may generate some discussion.) Why is a woman’s appreciation for a gift inversely proportional to its usefulness? (I learned this the hard way when I gave my wife an electric can opener for a gift one Christmas; I was a lonely boy for several weeks after that.)

(This one probably won’t.) Speaking of women, why are Southern women more intelligent and more beautiful than women from anywhere else? Corollary: why can’t “women from anywhere else” take a joke?

Why are there pockets in pajamas? For that matter, why are there pajamas?

Theoretical physics posits that there may be an infinite number of universes. If so, are there as many jerks in all of those as there are in ours, or did we just get lucky?

Why is it that, when traveling Southern back roads, you will always—ALWAYS—come up behind a tractor or log truck ONLY when the road is at its narrowest, hilliest, and curviest?

What would a chair look like if your knees bent the other way?

You probably have a koan of your own (if “own” were pronounced OH-uhn, that would rhyme). What is it?

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Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel

Richard Eisel lives in Georgia. Besides writing, he enjoys reading, sailing, and baseball. He has been working on his first novel for about thirty years.  So far, he has written three paragraphs, but they are really good paragraphs.