I missed the bus and had to wait for the next one in the freezing rain, in Dublin’s official Belligerent Drunk neighbourhood (Motto: You don’t need toilets here!), but coming home to The Girl makes it worthwhile. So as I showered she sat outside the door and told me about her day – she had taken part in a quiz competition recently, and had studied hard for it, but all the trivia began to feel … trivial.
“The books we read don’t answer any of my real questions,” The Girl said.
What’s on your mind? I asked.
“Like, why are we here?” she asked.
Are you asking about the purposes of God? I asked.
“I’m asking about our purpose,” she said.
Well, I said, you know how we’re like cells of a greater body? I asked. “Uh-huh,” I heard her say from outside.
What happens when your body is wounded? I asked.
“It makes new, special cells to fix the damage,” she said. “Like white blood cells to make a scab.”
Exactly, I said. You know how humans have done a lot of damage to the world? And a lot of people are still doing terrible things to each other?
“Yes,” she said. Well, I said, there need to be new, special people to fix things, a little bit at a time. And you’re special.
She digested this for a few moments. Remember one of the lessons I gave you last week, I said? The Pareto Rule?
“I remember,” she said. “The 80-20 rule. Like, 80 per cent of whatever –it-is comes from 20 per cent of people.”
Sure, whether good or bad, I said. Sometimes it’s more like 90-10, or 99-1, I said. Sometimes that one, just a few people here and there, are all it takes.
"By doing what, though?" she asked. You'll figure it out as you get older, I said, and I'll help where I can. You could heal the sick, or write things people need to hear, or grow food, or do science experiments, or teach children. You'll probably do several things. And the world's going to see some difficult times ahead -- whatever one you pick, you'll be needed. Just make sure you're making the world better.
What do you think of that answer? I asked.
"I suppose," sounding far away. "Let's read Harry Potter -- is that okay?" she said.
Sure, I said, coming out dressed. We don't figure these things out in a night, I thought.