Miles Kington: Want to know the secret of life? It'll cost you...

The quest for the secret of life takes many unexpected forms. Down many strange paths must a man go
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The Independent Online


Once upon a time there was an American millionaire called Kritner who decided to find out the secret of life. So he travelled to the East in search of enlightenment, and in India, at the top of a mountain, he found a guru living in a cave, and said to him: "Do you know the secret of life?".

The guru nodded.

"Then tell me what it is," said the millionaire, patting his wallet meaningfully.

The guru smiled and said that whatever the secret of life was, it was not something you went out looking for with money. It was something that would come to you quietly at home.


Weeks later, the guru was sitting outside his cave when he heard a phone ringing, which was odd, as he had no phone. But being a guru he was surprised by nothing, so he picked it up and said: "Hello?".

"Hello," said a voice. "I am the American millionaire you told to go home in search of the secret of life. Well, I have now returned home, so I want you to come here and tell me what it is."

"Unfortunately," said the guru, "although very wise, I am an innocent in the ways of the modern world, so I would not be able to find my way to your home."

"Don't worry," said the American. "That has been taken care of."

At that moment a shadow fell across the guru and he looked up to see two men wearing sun glasses looking down at him. They were both carrying guns. They seemed to want him to follow them.


"Tell me," said the guru, when he had reached Mr Kritner's home in Fifth Avenue, New York, "did it not occur to you when you left that phone behind that as I had never seen one before, I would not know what it was or how to answer it?"

"It occurred to me," said Kritner.

"And when you came to the Himalayas, had it not occurred to you that if you met a wise man living in a cave, you would not have a language in common ?"

"That also had occurred to me," said Kritner. "But this sort of thing is always taken care of by the narrative conventions of the story. After all, in Aesop's Fables animals are always talking to each other, but we do not disbelieve his stories on that account. Why should a phone bother you?"

"You are not as stupid as I thought," said the guru.

"Thank you," said Kritner. "Now, tell me what the secret of life is."


"A three-course meal ?" said Kritner. "A THREE-COURSE MEAL?"

"Yes, a three course meal," said the guru. "But with no second helpings. That is very important."

"Are you trying to tell me that the secret is a three source meal with no second helpings?!" said Kritner.

"Yes," said the guru, pushing back his empty dessert plate. "That is the secret of happiness."

"Happiness ?" said Kritner. "I am not interested in happiness! I am interested in the secret of LIFE !"

"Ah," said the guru. "That is rather different."


"You were in very late last night," said Mr Kritner reprovingly to the guru, two days later. "And unless I was imagining things, I heard girls' voices and soft music coming from your room."

"The quest for the secret of life takes many unexpected forms," said the guru. "Down many strange paths must a man go..."

"And have you found the secret of life?"

"Yes," said the guru. "I will tell you."

And he leant forward and whispered something to Kritner. And Kritner burst out laughing...

Would YOU like to know the secret of life as vouchsafed by the guru to Mr Kritner? Just send an SAE and a signed blank cheque to this column, and leave it to me.