Mark Twain Changed My Life

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Sometime before I reached high school, I formed the habit of blindly accepting any explanation of anything that someone gave to me, not forming any opinions before I had the information spoon-fed to me. Everything changed after I picked up a copy of “Mark Twain’s Best” at my library book sale. One of the stories featured was “The Mysterious Stranger,” a tale of a group of boys who meets someone who calls himself Satan. The story completely compelled me. All my life I had been taught that we had either been exploded into existence by an improbable bang, or molded into creation by a supreme Deity.

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As I finished the tale, other possibilities suddenly occurred to me. And not just one – thousands. What if our entire universe is merely a fleeting thought in the mind of a being we cannot begin to imagine? What if what we perceive to be, and what we assume is, is actually nothing more than a lonely thought drifting throughout eternity?

The story did more than intrigue me. It made me question the entire foundation of my world and being, and I have never quite recovered. Nor do I particularly want to. I will likely spend my life exploring the question that has no answer, and even has no real way to be asked.

“The Mysterious Stranger” made me doubt all I had ever known. But, as Rene Descartes wrote in Principles of Philosophy, “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

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