Two nights ago, three strangers stopped me while I was on my way home. It was a Friday night and I was tired, overworked and stressed. The week had been trying, what with tests and experiments that didn't work.
"Hello, hi, can we ask you 5 simple questions?" They saw the wariness on my face and added, "please? Just five questions?"
The three of them - 2 aunties, 1 uncle, all middle-aged - looked suspiciously like insurance agents. They reminded me of people who loiter about the train stations, asking by-passers to sign up for credit cards or mobile broadband plans.
"Okay." I relented. I'm almost one-quarter-century years old and I still have difficulties saying 'no'.
"So, what's your name?" My answer was brief.
"What're you studying?" Science.
"What's your greatest worry?"
This survey was becoming interesting, judging from this question. What's my greatest worry? Hmm, what is it?
World peace? Recently, America proposed to bomb Syria for chemically attacking its citizens. Russia, naturally, objected to a US-led military invasion. Maybe something closer to home? The South China Sea disputes between China and Japan/ Korea/ Vietnam/ Malaysia/ Philipines/ Brunei aren't resolved yet. This could lead to regional instability.
I gave serious thought to answering 'world peace'. They'd probably think that I'm teasing them.
"Graduating," I said. After all, this is a safer answer and I've no wish to prolong the conversation. I'm in my final year of studies and worrying about graduation is a legitimate concern.
"Wow, which university are you studying in?"
"Okay, could we know what's your religious belief?"
"Erm, I've none."
"Do you mean you're a freethinker?"
"I suppose so."
One of them quickly ticked a checkbox on their Life Questionnaire. "Now, for the last question. Suppose that you're to die and reach the gates of heaven, what do you think you'd say to God to convince him to allow you to enter?"
I paused. "I don't know what I'd say. I haven't considered this question before."
They offered suggestions. "Perhaps you would say that you're a good person who deserves to be in heaven? That you might be imperfect but you've tried my best? You deserve a second chance?"
"Honestly, I don't even know if I believe there's a god, or gods, or God."
"Erm," they paused. Apparently, my answer didn't fit any MCQ answer.
"Thanks." I left, even more tired and discomforted than before answering this street-side questionnaire.
Their last question is, perhaps, the greatest fear of people without faith. What to say to God to gain entry to heaven. Almost akin to what to say to teachers if one is late for school, or to the policemen when caught speeding. Every answer would sound like an excuse, a desperate plea.
It reminds these people - they without faith - that the world beyond is a great unknown. There is no one to trust and nowhere to look forward to.
There may be no higher purpose in life other than to eat, sleep, shit, pee and procreate. Life may simply be a random game of luck and numbers. A genetic lottery deciding where we were born and how we were raised.
Human beings, little macro-organisms with their existential angst, have always been trying to impute meanings on the meaningless. At times, their attempts may be successful. And at times, not so.
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