Why it’s not the Great Yes or the Great No, but the Great Perhaps

For my birthday, my brother gave me John Green’s “Looking for Alaska.” It was one of the last books I read in 2014, and was ultimately one of the best.

The Great Perhaps was a theme that seeped through almost every page. It was something that beautifully haunted almost every scene. “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” From this, the story began. And in this, it ended.

When I think of the Great Perhaps in the context of the story–and even beyond or outside of it–I am left with the idea that it refers to more than just adventure, the unknown, or the riddle of life and of living. More than anything else, the Great Perhaps is a contradiction. Before it becomes perfectly synonymous to adventure or the unknown, it is at first purely contradiction.

When I ask a person a question, I generally expect a definite answer. I expect it because it is what I want and need. Many people have programmed themselves, so to speak, to only accept definite answers and to reserve all forms of hostility for those whose answers don’t pass the mark. Like them, I crave for assurance and I long for reassurance.

A question which is answerable by something definite cannot be and should not be answered with “maybe”, “somewhat”, or “possibly.” These are words that leave people hanging; these are words that leave a crystal glass cloudy. Of all the rules and agreements people from the past and the present have made, it is this one that has made many of us unyielding.

And this is why the Great Perhaps is first of all a contradiction. We see nothing good in “perhaps.” We see nothing great in “perhaps.” Some of us even fear it.

I do believe that only a person with an open heart and an open mind can solve the contradiction and can make sense of the Great Perhaps. In Looking for Alaska, Miles (or Pudge) embraced it and made sense of it until the very end and in spite of the end.

Though Pudge is nothing close to the ideal human being, I wish to be like him in some ways. I’m not halfway through in understanding the Great Perhaps and in genuinely welcoming it with warmth and pleasure. But this I know: It is not the Great Yes or the Great No that will lift me and take me to places. It is the Great Perhaps.


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