Hiya, folks. I was sitting here on the floor at the Wallingford Food Bank surfing the internet when I happened to look up. Lo and behold, it’s my old pal, the king of pop, Michael Jackson. He’s trying to be incognito wearing torn jeans and a grey hoodie but I’d recognize him anywhere. He’s always been a good conversationalist so I’ll secretly now use my laptop to record our conversation.
Me: [I get up and walk over to him] Hey Mike!
Mike: [Puts an index finger to his lips] Shhh! Hey Robin, I’m trying not to be noticed.
Me: [I sit next to him and we shake hands] Boy, a lot of people sure miss you.
Mike: That’s sweet. I miss them, too.
Me: Man, I haven’t seen you since the ‘Bad’ tour.
Mike: Just busy, you know?
Me: Yeah. Of course. So how have you been?
Mike: Okay. Can’t complain.
Me: What brings you to this food bank like us poor folks? You can afford to have steak and lobster at the Waldorf-Astoria every day.
Mike: Well, they keep us on a strict diet in Heaven, so every so often I come down here for something different.
Me: Uh huh.
Mike: Oh, sorry, man. I forgot you don’t believe in God. My bad.
Me: Actually, Mike, this morning I had an epiphany.
Mike: What happened?
Me: I was lying there at the transitional shelter thinking about Anekāntavāda and saw life in a new light, if you will.
Mike: What’s Anekāntavāda?
Me: It’s the Jainism belief that truth and reality can be ascertained from different viewpoints, that there is no single truth.
Mike: I’ve heard of Jainism. Are you a Jain now?
Me: Oh yeah. I’ve been a Jain all my life, just never knew it. A lot of the tenets and beliefs in Jainism I could have written myself because they’re right in step with how I think anyway. A lot of penances they suggest, I’ve done. You know, Mike, over the years I’ve practiced fasting, eating food without seasonings, getting rid of things I like my concert shirts, walking miles instead of driving or taking the bus, sleeping on surfaces other than a bed, etc.
Mike: So you found religion.
Mike: That’s your epiphany?
Me: What are we sitting on?
Me: Why do you call them chairs? Why not footstools?
Mike: [Looking puzzled] Because they’re… chairs?
Me: Says who?
Mike: I guess everyone. It’s common knowledge.
Me: Around the world? They call it ‘chair’?
Mike: Well, in different languages, of course. In Beijing, it’s ‘yizi’. In Mexico City, it’s ‘silla’. In downtown Addis, it’s ‘weniberi’. In Moscow, it’s ‘stul’…
Me: So it is footstool in Russia!
Mike: Nope. That would be ‘skameyechka diya nog’. Where are you going with this?
Me: Where does the word ‘chair’ come from?
Mike: I don’t know. Maybe European or Native American?
Me: And it’s an old word.
Mike: I guess.
Me: Maybe Caveman Og called it a chair and the name stuck.
Mike: Could be.
Me: So now it’s widely known as ‘chair’, not ‘footstool.’
Mike: I guess so. That’s how everyone knows it.
Me: Can I change it to footstool?
Mike: You can change it to grease paint if that floats your boat. It’s still a chair.
Me: The majority of people call it a chair so I may as well, too. It’s ridiculous to refute that, even if Og was wrong by calling it ‘chair’.
Mike: Yeah. I mean, if you want proof, you can always go back in time when Og was naming things. Even if it wasn’t ‘chair’, it doesn’t matter. Just accept it’s a chair. Millions of people have been calling it ‘chair’ for centuries. Even if the word for it really is ‘footstool’, it’s still a chair because they all believe it’s a chair.
Me: Right. And millions of people over the centuries have said there is a God. Even if I doubt that, it doesn’t matter. God still exists.
Mike: [rubbing his chin] I see where you’re coming from. So you’re not an atheist anymore?
Me: Oh, yeah. I still am, but Anekāntavāda says there are different viewpoints to truth and reality so it’s a concept I accept. With Anekāntavāda there is space for more than one viewpoint which Jainism teaches us to accept. If people say there’s a God in Heaven, I have no choice but to accept that. That’s my epiphany.
Mike: Wow. Robin, you must be getting old. Years ago you would never have said that.
Me: Yeah. I’m still learning. Student for life.
Mike: You were always inquisitive anyway.
Me: That’s true.
Mike: Hey, Robin, they just called my number. I’m gonna get my bag of groceries and bounce; [points to the sky] get back up there before they notice.
Me: Thanks for talking, Mike. People really miss you down here. You’re one of a kind.
Mike: Thanks. Take care.