“Our only trouble,” thought Pahóm, “is that we haven’t land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself.”
I was woken by a loud cry. The door opened and Rahi came clattering in. I want to go to Papa, he cried out. Annika followed. Sorry, Geliebter, she said. Since he woke up he’s been saying he wants to go to Papa. And now I just opened the kitchen door a little (Rahi can’t open it himself) and Rahi shot out and came here.
Do you want to do the train puzzle, Papa?
Yes, I said, still groggy. I’d worked late last night and hadn’t had much sleep. Give me a few minutes and then we’ll do it together, okay?
You can set your alarm, said Rahi.
I set my alarm. Annika came in and did the puzzle with him while I lay next to them. Then they went upstairs and I tried to go back to sleep.
Most mornings, the first thing Rahi asks me is: Are you done with work, Papa?
Most mornings, I say no.
Just after Christmas, Rahi and I spent 8 days alone. Just the two of us. On day 3 or 4, sitting on his little chair at the table, eating cashew nuts, he said quietly and seriously, Ich freu mich dass du nicht arbeiten muss, Papa.
I’m happy you don’t have to work, Papa.
Me too, I said, and he went back to his nuts.
Ages ago, to help me with choosing my next philosophical research project, I came up with a distinction between problems and puzzles.
I defined a problem as something that had existential importance for me - solving it (or not), understanding it, realising it could not be understood … all of this would have some clear and significant effect in my life.
A puzzle was simply the contrast case - a question that I had no answer to, perhaps, but that I also didn’t need an answer to. Solving the puzzle would make no difference to my life.
I realise I am writing right now about a problem, and a very serious one: What is life for?
I’m almost embarrassed to pose the question as directly and openly as that. But that is how the question presents itself to me right now - and not in thought, not as an idle intellectual game, but in life, in my life, in the absurdly few hours that I have left on this earth.
These minutes, these hours … this tiny sliver of time that remains: What is it for?