The unanswerable

As a Reference Librarian in a busy public library I help people find the answers to their questions every day. I help them with questions big, small and everything in between; everything from research into medical conditions, to the location of the photocopier. Often the most urgent need is to know their placement in the reservation queue for the latest best seller.


In the last two weeks I attended a 90th and an 80th birthday celebration. These parties were both fun and emotionally moving occasions. Digital photo stories on display fleshed out the lives of these individuals and gave appropriate eminence to each. It is amazing what you learn about people at an event like this. It makes me realise how important each person is within their sphere of influence.


I joked about the fact that I went to these parties for old folk, but in truth I feel privileged to have been invited and present at these enjoyable and momentous events. The 90 year old lives independently, is relatively mobile, and in full use of their mental abilities and sense of humour. The 80 year old is a friend who cycles in the group I also cycle with, and also swims in the sea regularly, runs, and much more.


Meanwhile the person in my life who has cancer was hospitalised. As someone who never smoked it seems ironic they have cancer in their lung. Bad luck perhaps. Is there no logic to living a long and healthy life?


These experiences help make me better at my job. I am more accepting, inclusive, and non-judgmental towards everyone. Paradoxically, all questions become both irrelevant and significant at the same time. Our shared mortality is the only defining characteristic. The meaning of life blurs in and out of focus.


The big questions remain unanswerable.

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