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Riddle me this...

E is for Enigma.....

The Riddle. The Puzzle. The Question.

The search for answers and truth has plagued man since he first became conscious of his own thoughts. Man's innate curiosity has led him to ponder some of the greatest mysteries--- the answers always being different for each individual, if an answer is indeed reached.

One of the biggest enigmas is the purpose of life itself...

Other answers came easily---- 

why do we eat... because we are hungry
why are we hungry... because we need to eat
why do we need to eat... because we must eat to live
why do we live... because...

Why do we live?

The riddle of life is such a powerful question, it is no surprise that riddles, specifically life-saving riddles, have found their way into our stories. Who hasn't heard the Riddle of the Sphinx...
Where Oedipus is asked the question by the Sphinx before he is allowed to continue his journey:  

What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?

 Answer incorrectly and Oedipus forfeits his life, give the right answer and the Sphinx destroys herself, allowing Oedipus to continue on his way… to continue living.

A similar life and death dance plays out in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, when Bilbo Baggins is faced with the riddling Gollum…. Answer his riddles correctly and he might show you the way out, he might not eat you. Though, unlike the Sphinx’s single riddle, Gollum’s and Bilbo’s back and forth riddle banter more closely echoes the complexities of real life--- there is always more than one obstacle to overcome.

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down. 

What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after, 
Ends life, kills laughter.

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters.

Of course, these aren’t all the riddles from The Hobbit, just some of the best ones…

Now, back to that elusive answer that started this whole quandary--- what is the purpose of our life??

Well, maybe some mysteries are better left unsolved. Isn’t it the mysteries, the unsolved questions that make everything worthwhile? Having an unanswered question keeps everybody hungry, everybody searching….. it gives everybody a purpose….


  1. My family adores riddles, and I hate them because I never know the answer! And even when I am told, I can't repeat the riddle because I forget the answer. I have riddle ADHD.

  2. LOL...oh no!

    That would make "enjoying" a good riddle difficult...

  3. I'm terrible at riddles but I loved the riddle game Bilbo and Gollum play.

  4. I agree, the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum was excellent. It is probably what cemented my love of riddles.... I may not always be able to solve them, but I love hearing them and trying to work them out :-)

  5. very thoughtful post... probably going to keep me up all night thinking :P

  6. I think you're spot on. We don't grow by finding answers, but by asking questions. I think we sometimes find half-answers that suit us. And sometimes those change, over time, as do we.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, and for reminding me that when it comes to life's big ticket items, having answers isn't so useful as asking questions.

    f: first & final

  7. I've always felt that the search for answers is what makes life worth it, because, once we have all the answers, what's left?

    I like to think that so long as we don't know, there is always a drive to find those answers... and it's that hunger and drive that keeps people going (well, it's what keeps me going) :-)


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