I ask my students to ask me five random questions at the end of each class. And I was asked a fascinating question today: “If you could ask god a question to which you would get an answer, what would it be?”
My answer was that I would ask god if there is a point to all this. That is, is there meaning and purpose to the universe, or does the universe just go completely cold and dead at some point in the future?
But on reflection, I am not so sure that I would want the answer to that question. If there is no point to the universe, will I have the motivation to do anything? And if there is a point, well, carry on!
That is, a point to the universe implies I should do what I was doing anyways. Because if there is a point to the universe and I’m not contributing meaningfully, then what is the point of my existence? I should do more!
And if I think that I am contributing meaningfully (in my opinion), then the answer doesn’t change anything in my life. So on balance, I would rather not find out the answer, which means I shouldn’t ask this question. Would you agree?
But then what question should I ask? Asking god if she exists is a fun candidate, but surely I can do better. Resolve a conjecture in mathematics? Ask if traveling back in time is possible? What was there before the Big Bang?
What about this: “What is the one question you are hoping I ask?”. Or its converse, for that matter. But if god has a Puneri sense of humor, she might well say “the one you just asked!” Back to square one, then.
“Do the ends justify the means?” is a question that I would like an answer to, but I worry that I will no longer want to read another version of the Mahabharata, and why deny myself that pleasure? The search goes on!
I honestly don’t know of a really “good” question, so I’ll go with a question that is meta, fun and one I would genuinely enjoy having answered. “Would you classify Douglas Adams as a fiction writer? Yup, I think this is it!
Or as a tribute to an author whose work I have always enjoyed reading, here’s another: “Is good a noun?” Either of these two, then, and not being able to decide is a privilege, I suppose. Finally: what would your question be?