I often sit near the northern end of the Mississippi River on a park bench, thinking. I think that someone at the southern end of the river may be sitting on a similar bench and watching the river roll, just like me. I imagine that the river unites us. We think together about life and its complexities. There will never be answers to all our questions because there are too many and not enough time and wisdom for answers. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with our thoughts and think we should know the answer to every tormenting question.
We sit for a long time. The water flows, coming to us and passing us just like each event in life. It absorbs my every unanswerable question and carries it downstream to my companion, so he can think about it too. The gentle fall wind blows against my face as I sit on the bench, letting time pass, and at the same time, the southern heat is making my companion uncomfortable, but he remains there. We are sharing thoughts, two souls staring out at the river. I feel overwhelmed to think the thoughts, I feel sad about some of them, and I even feel proud sometimes to have gotten a certain distance in my thinking.
My companion and I come to some conclusions, but even as those are developing, more questions emerge. We forget about our daily lives as the wind and the water pull us deeper into our own heads. Our brains are whirlpools, and the thoughts are spinning rapidly. Meanwhile the world continues and the clock ticks, but we are oblivious to the sounds of those around us; we are trying to figure out the mysteries that lie within every person. But we can’t. We can never figure out solutions to our curiosity. Many times we don’t even know the question; we just know that there is something that caused us to hunger for answers. To an observer we each look like a typical person sitting on a bench by the river, but there are intense battles going on inside where answers are trying to break free.
Maybe the reason we can never find the answer is because the only real answers are more questions. We don’t realize that maybe some of these thoughts are actually the answers. The fact that we are wondering could be the answer itself. But whenever I am thinking, the answers always seem so hopelessly far away, like my companion to the south. To us, it’s as if these answers are the water in a pond. Whenever any person around the world asks or thinks a question, they have thrown a stone into the water. It spreads ripples on the water, which push the answers farther away and make them harder to find. If this is the case, my companion and I wonder, how can we ever reach the answers? Each question just pushes them farther from us.
Perhaps people weren’t meant to know everything. Perhaps every time we come to a question the force that created us pushes the answers away. When my companion and I think of the universe and all that could be in its depths, the earth seems pretty insignificant. There could be many others out there who know more about the answers to life than we do.
My companion and I suddenly shift positions on our benches. We have managed to put our thoughts away for the moment. We are feeling better about living our lives now. On the north and south ends of the river, the two of us stand up from our benches and travel back to where we should be. We think a lot, and if we ever feel overwhelmed again and want to try to sort out our thoughts we know we can always head back to the bench by the Mississippi River.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.