The older I get, the more I appreciate the vault of wisdom that is the film “Forrest Gump.”
While acknowledging the cult-popularity of the “box of chocolates” dialogue, I maintain that the most important lesson comes from a brief exchange between Gump and a slightly intoxicated Lt. Dan.
“Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?” sputters the angry lieutenant. “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir,” comes the reply.
Too often, we are like Gump. We are completely oblivious of the questions we ought to be asking. This is strange because we are given so many answers on a daily basis. There is a joke in the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” series that revolves around a super computer, named Deep Thought, that one day spits out “the ultimate answer.” The ultimate answer is, of course, the number 42. Following the announcement of the answer, the computer is then set to the task of finding the ultimate question.
Every day brings a bombardment of answers to all kinds of questions, most of which we, in our laziness, have left unasked. Every single advertisement is an answer to the question, “What will make me happy?” But that answer assumes a positive response to the questions, “Should I seek immediate happiness?” and “Can I attain happiness with things or experiences?”
Imagine the frenzy ad agencies would be thrown into if the average consumer started asking these deeper questions. Imagine what would happen if we realized that female breasts really have nothing at all to do with the millions of products they are used to advertise. Imagine if we weren’t so easily fooled by bright lights and loud noises.
But advertisements aren’t the only bearer of answers we encounter on a daily basis. We writers, in newsprint and in novels, all offer up pages and pages of answers. Yet, we make an assumption when we put pen to paper; we assume the reader has asked the question for which we have an answer. We assume the reader is more like Lt. Dan and less like those persons scratching their heads at the number 42.
So, in this last paper of the year, I challenge the reader to do two things. First, notice the millions of answers you are given on a daily basis. Second, figure out what questions they are answering or questions they assume you’ve already answered. When we have transcended mere acceptance of answers given and have assumed a critical and curious mindset, only then will the answers make sense. More importantly, only then will we know which answers are right.
BY JOHN GOERKE