Cousin Billy explains life’s meaning

Published 9:49 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What is the meaning of life?

Is it mortal, spiritual or scientific in nature?

Those philosophical questions mean different things to different people. The vagueness of the query is inherent in the word “meaning.” That opens the question to many interpretations, such as the origin, nature, significance or purpose of life.

What about the value of life?

So many questions…too little answers.

Are we here to accumulate wealth and increase social status or to only compete against others in order to fulfill our destiny?

Are we here to harm others, destroy them because they do not conform to our way of thinking, or were we born to simply die after hopefully succeeding in our purpose here on Earth?

Are we here to gain and exercise power or to simply leave a legacy, such as a work of art, a powerful book, or leaving our mark upon a community?

Are we here to only produce offspring in order for them to continue questioning the meaning of life? If that’s the case then we’re only here to seek happiness and experience pleasure.

What if we’re here to answer life’s most challenging question…is there life after death? Or do we make it our quest while walking among the living to pursue mankind’s ultimate goal…to seek immortality through scientific means.

Do we live life without question or are we here to keep asking questions?

Are we here to explore and expand beyond our frontiers in order to seek broader knowledge, understanding and wisdom?

Is the meaning of life to live in peace with each other and in harmony with our natural environment, thusly gaining inner peace?

Are we here to pursue a dream, vision or destiny?

Why are we here?

That answer came to me years and years ago from the now late Billy Joyner, my all-knowing, all-caring second cousin on my mom’s side of the family. While he was here on Earth, cousin Billy, who during the course of his life made the family mighty proud because of his lofty status in the political world (he once served on the Conway Town Council), often provided me with words of wisdom. I stumbled across one of Billy’s tidbits just recently while looking through some old paperwork. It was entitled the True Meaning of Life:

One day, God created the dog and said: “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten?”

So, God agreed.

On the next day, God created the monkey and said: “Entertain people, do tricks and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”

In response the monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?”

And God agreed.

On the next day, God created the cow and said: “You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, give birth to calves and give milk to support the farmer’s family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years.”

The cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life. You want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”

And, once again, God agreed with a submitted plan.

Then on the next day, God created man and said: “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”

But man said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?”

“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why during the first twenty years of mankind’s existence we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.

For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family.

For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.

And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you, thanks to cousin Billy.


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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