Nothin’ Nietzsche Couldn’t Teach Ya

by Christine Adams Beckett

My nine year-old daughter picked up my nifty iPhone to banter with Siri, a brilliantly programmed canned voice designed by Apple to walk us through all sorts of life’s problems without thumbing onto a virtual keyboard.  Sometimes she asks for a sinfully delicious brownie recipe, to dial Grandpa in Connecticut for her, or to inquire as to where the nearest toy store that carries Play Mobiles is located.  But on this particular Monday, existential philosophy, of all things, was on her mind and asked Siri first who should she marry (que sera sera!) followed by the eternal stumper, “What is the meaning of life?”  Accustomed to more rote questions, I was thrown into fits of laughter when Siri answered, “Nothin’ Nietzche couldn’t teach ya…”

Not that I am going to jump into a discussion about nihilism with my 9 year-old, but she being the consummate thinker herself asked what in heaven’s name Siri just robotically blurted from the tiny speaker.  Of course, the inevitable second, third and fourth question followed until we got to her original one, “What IS the meaning of life?”

I shudder to think that yes, indeed, ignorance is bliss so therefore bliss may not be hers.  Thinkers will contemplate the questions until proverbial cows come back to pasture.  The answer differs for each being, 9 year-old children as well as 40 year-old ones.  Boy, don’t YOU have your work cut out for you.  Figure it out!  What is the meaning behind your personal existence?  Start NOW!

Mine finally settled on the perfect conclusion: that for now, the meaning of life lies in chocolate.  Yes, chocolate!  Perhaps she has to memorize math facts and sometimes clean up after her toddler sister when SHE didn’t make the mess, but often, there are Neuhaus turtles at the end of supper.  There exists a tiny, brown chunk of Goodness to enjoy before the wreck of another day begins!  Frankly, I think it’s the same for all of us; but our adult-world luminal moments look a little different.  We are in a collective economic doldrum, we’ve just been reminded that at times terrorism can get the better of us and that day-to-day life can get downright lonely and monotonous. But every once in a while we are rewarded with a spiritual morsel of something entirely sweet: the arms of an appreciative child around the neck, the secret loving look of a spouse, or a moment of clarity with an elderly parent.  We take it and run with it, dream about it until the next Hershey kiss of experience is thrown into our laps.  We just have to be careful to recognize them and when appropriate, taste them.

Siri, the great faux philosopher of our overly technological world, has reminded us that a good laugh, especially in the face of the hard questions that can never be fully answered, is a damn good coping mechanism.  So I conclude with her muse, the great Monty Python (who should carry an R-rating, as a word of caution for those of you with your own existential 9 year-olds gawking over your shoulders):