(The following story is based on a story I made up for my kids one day when, for unknown reasons, my youngest son began answering every question we asked him with, “Ha!”. It’s a bit of a departure from my normal posts but maybe that’s a good thing…)
In a small village in a world much like our own, there was a young boy who filled the lives of those around him with joy, happiness and confusion. This young curly-headed boy, had a smile that filled all who saw it with Joy. His laugh instilled happiness throughout the village. His answer of, “Ha!” to every question he was asked created confusion for all he spoke it to. Beyond confusion, there was also worry and concern. This boy, who was but three years old, seemed to be a perfectly normal young boy; he liked to play with toys, he liked to run around outside and horse around with the other boys, but why, wondered the people of his town, would he not answer a question with anything other than, “Ha!”. Of course this concern and worry was limited only to the adults of the town. The children that spent time with the curly-headed boy enjoyed hearing him say “Ha!” and, in time, began answering questions in this manner as well. Some children did so only for imitation sake, as children are wont to do, while others began emitting the same joy and happiness with their smile and laughter as the curly-headed child, while answering any question with the single exclamatory word, “Ha!”. This, of course, only served to increase the anxiety of the adults.
As the concern grew amongst the adults of the village, they decided to hold a meeting, as adults are wont to do. The meeting was meant to provide the adults a forum for discussion on the meaning of “Ha!”, but, as adults are also wont to do, it turned into a discussion of how to stop the children from saying the word “Ha!”. As the discussion became more and more heated and the adults worked themselves into more and more of a frenzy they came to a conclusion that would lay the adults’ fears to rest and, of course would be best for the children: Short of physical violence, unless absolutely necessary, they must do whatever it takes to stop the children from saying “Ha!”. Plan in place the adults, some more hesitant than others, set out to achieve their goal and restore normality to their village.
Over the next several weeks the adults did what they could to end the scourge of “Ha!” Punishments were exacted on the children each time a child would answer with “Ha!” The punishments started out light, such as a deprivation of toys or going out to play for the day if they uttered the word but soon became more and more severe as the children showed no sign of stopping their foolishness. During this time some of the adults became weary of punishing the children and suggested that, perhaps, they should ask the children why they said it. This suggestion was met with such disdain and anger by the adults who had become possessed by the need of eradicating “Ha!”, that those who suggested it became afraid and quickly let it drop. As their failure to stop the children from saying, “Ha!” became more and more pronounced, despite the escalation of punishments, the adults held another meeting, at which they decided that, since this epidemic started with the curly-headed boy, he was to blame and must be sent away from the village. This, they supposed, would not only strike fear into the remaining children to stop saying, “Ha!” but would also rid the village of the one who started it.
With the final solution at hand the adults ended their meeting and, as a group – led of course by those most feverish to put an end to this obvious madness, fell upon the curly-headed boy as he and the other children were playing peacefully in the public square. As shouts of anger and disgust were leveled upon the child by the leaders, and followed meekly by the rest of the group, the boy was bound and taken far away from the village. Before leaving the curly-headed boy to fend for himself in a remote area of land the adults gave the young boy one last chance and asked if he would now stop saying “Ha!” To this the curly-headed one replied simply, “Ha!” The adults, whose group now numbered but a handful – the rest of the adults having slinked back to their homes not wanting to be a part of this punishment but also not wanting to find themselves on the wrong side of the leaders, in barely restrained fury, stormed away from the child and made the long journey back to the village.
Feeling satisfied with themselves, the leaders returned to the village in a triumphant and celebratory mood knowing that they had restored normalcy to the village. They’re mood was not long-lived, however. The children, all of them now, not only continued to say “Ha!” in response to questions but began saying nothing else but this one utterance. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there soon came a time when the children began disappearing. It started with just one child, but soon every child in the village was gone. The leaders were confounded and red-faced over this, which served only to fuel their anger towards the disarray that had befallen on their once normal and peaceful village. The other adults became yet meeker and were desperate to find their children. Once again a meeting was held and once again the leaders came to an even more extreme conclusion; the curly-headed boy was behind this and he must be punished in the most severe of fashions. Once again as a whole, the adults set off to where the leaders had left the curly-headed boy to put an absolute end to this madness.
As they approached the part of the land where the curly-headed one was left some of the adults began noticing a change in their surroundings; it was subtle at first but soon grew more pronounced – yet, these adults thoughts, they couldn’t quite pinpoint what was different. Soon enough the group of adults caught sight of the curly-headed boy sitting peacefully, some even thought he might be sleeping, on a bed of grasses, surrounded by all of the village children; each sitting in a similar fashion. The leaders began rushing towards the instigator of “Ha!” but were given pause as they came within the outer circle of children. The followers amongst the adults, without knowing what they were doing, assumed the same position as the children and felt a peace and happiness unbeknownst to them before.
The leaders, still unable to advance and exact their revenge on the boy, were nonetheless filled with the hatred that they had for the perceived offenses that this child had committed against them. Finally able to speak, one of the leaders shouted a series of questions to the curly-headed child, “Why have you done this to our village? Why must you answer “Ha!” to each question we asked you? Why do you commit such offences to us and lure our children into your wicked ways?”
The curly-headed boy, slowly opened his eyes and smiled a smile so radiant that the land seemed to be lit on fire by its glow. He then slowly and deliberately, raised but one index finger and spoke thusly, “I have no answer to your first and third questions except to say that I have not intentionally meant to cause any one harm; if you have felt slighted by actions I humbly apologize. As for the reason why I answer “Ha!” to all of your questions, it is quite simple. “Ha!” is the answer to every question ever asked and the answer to every question that will ever be asked.”
“But what does “Ha!” mean?” asked the same leader with a slight pleading tone.
“”Ha!” is, has been and ever will be. I cannot say more than this for the answer to your questions lies within all life and is different according to the needs of the being. When you know this,” he wiggled his index finger slightly, “you will have your answer.”
In a deflated manner the leader asked one last question of the boy, “If this,” he raised his index finger, “is all that “Ha!” meant why not tell us so instead of suffering through the punishments we enacted upon you?”
“I, nor the other children, have suffered. It is only you who are suffering,” replied the curly-headed boy, “but as to why I didn’t tell you what “Ha!” meant the answer is simple: You did not ask.”