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Several years ago, never mind how long precisely….. (to coin Melville’s phrase) I managed a retail music store. Lots of fun, lots of music, and lots of young people (and since I, too, was(am) a young people, this worked out nicely). It was hard work to be sure, but you know me, (at least I hope you do by now…even if only a little) I like to make things fun. So we got our work done as quickly as possible, thereby giving us the rest of the day to “enjoy” (ok, maybe I do mean goof off, but I’m being poetic). Nice strategy really, everyone was happy. Oh not that we ignored our clientele or neglected our responsibilities, but all work and no play…dontcha know.

One of my employees ( who shall, of course, remain nameless) had a particularly intriguing habit of coming into work each day with a specific question he had planned/decided on as the “Burning Question” of the day. He would pose this question and we would spend the remainder of the day discussing amongst ourselves our thoughts and opinions on the selected topic. It passed the time on SLOW days (which happen quite often in retail, actually), it made for lively banter, and, occasionally, it generated heated debates.

So you might ask, what was the Burning Question? It could be anything, quite honestly. Of course, working in the music industry a favourite topic was: Who was/is the best rock band of all time…and why? OR perhaps as a variation on the theme: What are the top 5 songs of all time..and why? Sometimes it was something simple, such as: Favourite Movie Ever…and why? OR Best Actor…and why? (one of my favs) Best Novel..and why?, Best Classical Composer…and why?

Noticing a theme yet? (outside of the obvious triviality of the topic, of course)…Yes, there was always a WHY? Sure, it’s a comparatively straightforward assignment to name your favourite “whatever it is”, but to then defend your choice(s) with a logically thought out rationale….not as simple.

Often, this young man would show up with less inconsequential fodder for us to chew on; questions such as: Do Ghosts really exist and if so…Why? (yep, there it is again) OR, Is there really such a thing as FATE, and if so….you betcha…Why? What is the true role of government…and….uh-huh…Why? Do aliens actually visit the Earth…and if they do…right-o, Why? And one of my personal favourites: If you won One Hundred Million Dollars, what would you do with it…and…..(seeing the pattern here?) WHY?

It wasn’t very long before I began to understand and appreciate the genius behind this young man’s daily queries. Oh sure, talking about some off-hand topic was interesting and made the hours fly and it’s always entertaining nattering about favourites, since everyone’s are different, but we were doing much more than that.

We were sharing hidden secrets, unveiling the demons, building bridges; that’s the beauty of a (Burning) Question, it makes us open the window to our soul, if only a little. Some people are reserved and they only open the window an inch at a time; others are exhibitionists and fling the shutters wide from the start, but ultimately, the fresh air comes in.

SO, I’ve decided to revisit this category/segment in my blog, which I confess I’ve neglected for some time now…. Once a week (or so) I will post one Burning Question along with my Smoldering Answer, and then ask you, (should you feel so inclined and I certainly hope you do) to post YOUR answer(s) in the COMMENTS section. There are no contests, no winners, no losers, no right or wrong answers, no free advice offered, no gimmick proffered; just for fun, really, and to open the window a little into our secrets, our demons, and maybe, if we’re lucky, to build a bridge or two.

Now, although it has been a while and although, up to this point, I have been selecting harmless enough queries, I shall go a bit more boldly tonight, though not exactly where no one has gone before….

Is there Life out there in the Universe, intelligent or not? And of course…why(or, why not).

My Smoldering Answer: For myself, I do believe that life exists elsewhere. I am no mathematician and never shall be ( more like the proverbial monkey doing the math problem, me) but I do understand statistics well enough to realize that the mathematical probability of life out there amongst the innumerable stars is quite high. (no pun intended!) Yet for me, there is a much simpler, if more theological, rationale that I cling to.

It is: God, in His many an awesome forms, i, ultimately, a creator, an artist, and any artist that breathes can easily comprehend the monumental impossibility of only ever creating ONE work of art, whether it be a poem, a song, a painting, a play, carving a statue, molding a vase from clay, taking an exquisite photograph, cooking a delectable meal, building, inventing, or creating….perhaps even Creating a world, Breathing life into clay, Separating night from day. So why stop at just one?