Understanding our relationship to the Universe is critical to finding inner peace.
There more I knew Mr. Babushnik, the more I realized that he was the wisest being I had ever known—as wise as Solomon, as far as I was concerned. For Mr. Babushnik, the riddle of whether to divide a baby or two seemed to be of the simplest of matters. But now that I knew such a being as Mr. Babushnik did exist, there were a thousand questions that I wanted to ask him.
Yet, though the impulse was there to pepper him with as many questions as I could muster, I also understood that Mr. Babushnik was not someone of whom you just asked any question. He was not one to waste silly questions, not about school or friends, or even parents—but only the most profound questions.
Soon I realized through my own reflections that there really was only one set of questions to ask. So I prepared myself and when our appointed day came to meet in the park, I simply ran. Arriving winded but well ahead of the time of our appointed rendezvous, I saw him already sitting on the park bench, sunning himself. Still breathless, I asked:
R: What will happen when I die?
Mr. B: You'll be dead.
Mr. B: And what?
R: And then what?
Mr. B: I don't know...I guess. Your body turns to dust...and your body gets eaten by worms...something like that.
R: But don't you live on...is there another life?
Mr. B: Who knows? I certainly don't.
R: But...I want to know. Is this all there is?
Mr. B: As far as I know.
Mr. B: But didn't you say once that we are all immortal.
Mr. B: Did I?
R: Didn't you?
Mr. B: I might have.
Of course, I might say that Mr. Babushnik was teasing, pretending to forget what he told me from day to day. Some might say he was merely playing with me. I for one saw it as his gentle way of showing us that everything we say is but a belief that can be whisked away in a whisper. R: You said once that Immortality is one of the most powerful ideas of all time.
Mr. B: Of course it is. I love it.
Mr. B: The idea of Immortality.
R: But now you say you don't know whether there is life after death…that maybe there is nothing at all.
Mr. B: In truth, as I said before. I don't know.
R: I don't understand.
Mr. B: But the idea of Immortality. The idea...the idea. I can't prove that there is such a thing as Immortality. But I can say this—the idea of Immortality is the most powerful concept there is. Just thinking about…it can transform your life. It makes no difference whether it can be proved or it can't be proved. It's the idea that can make the change. It lets you live optimistically, filled with energy. It gives you hope.
R: So that’s it. Immortality is just idea.
Mr. B: Actually Immortality is many ideas. Some people say that you get only one life. And you better watch out because it you get only one chance to get it right. Whatever right is? But that seems to change from person to person and time to time. Other people say you get lots of chances to get it right. Some say there is a Heaven and a Hell, not to different from this place.
And Mr. Babushnik waved his hand to indicate the surrounding park with its great grass lawns and lakes and park benches.
Mr. B: Others say that after our body dies, our spirit, whatever that is, becomes part of the great cosmic consciousness. Heaven knows there are all sorts of stories to choose from. My goodness, imagine a world without the idea of immortality...how bleak, how grim...how could I live with that...it would be terrible. And since I can't possibly know whether or not there is immortality, until after I die, then I figure there's no use worrying about such matters. I once tried on the ideas of mortality, death with nothing afterwards. I found myself looking into a pit of black, unbelievable despair. Excuse me, given that I can choose my thoughts and hold onto any ideas I want, shape my creation, I will opt for that one in particular. Immortality is just fine and dandy with me. There was a sudden silence as Mr. Babushnik stopped speaking. I waited for him to say something more but he didn’t. He just sat there with his eyes closed basking in the sun. Finally I inquired . R: Is that it?
Mr. Babushnik opened his eyes and looked at me with a slightly irritated countenance. Though in truth I could never really tell if he was truly irritated or just making believe he was angry.
Mr. B: Yes, nothing more.
R: But you haven’s said that we actually are immortal or not.
Mr. B: Okay, you’re immortal.
R: Just because you say I’m immortal, I’m immortal,
Mr. B: That’s all I can say. It’s an idea. I cannot prove it one way or the other. It is your choice to believe in it or not.
And with that I held my peace. As a child I had little time for thoughts about death and mortality and I soon forget that I had ever asked such a question. But as I grew older and I faced the fragility of the human form more times than I care to admit, Mr. Babushnik’s admonitions about the nature of life and death came back to me time and time again. And eventually the Idea of Immortality found its way into my Being. Not so much because I could prove it one way or the other, but rather because of the simple fact that Mr. Babushnik had told me so. And since that moment this profound idea changed my life and provided me the comfort and courage to stride forth into an unknown world fraught with both mystery and jeopardy.
Yet only in moments of deep reflection can I truly appreciate this Blessing – that once upon a time a gentle friend told me: “You are Immortal.”