There was a girl and her mother.
The girl asked her mother, “How will I know when I am ready to be married?”
Her mother gave a soothing smile, “Would you like me to tell you or do you wish to know?”
“What is the difference?” asked the girl.
The mother began,
“Once upon a time there was an ordinary woman. Alone, she had no children or husband. Her neighbors would not describe her as very good nor very bad. She was very dissatisfied. So much so, that she decided that she must do something with her life.
‘I will seek the answers to the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe,’ the woman said playfully to herself one day. She thought for a moment. ‘My life is a bore. I’ve got nothing to lose!’ She sat a little taller, and with conviction stated, ‘That is exactly what I must do—seek the answers to the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe!’
And that she did. She packed her things and set out into the wide world the very next day. The people of her village saw her leaving and did not begin to miss her very much.
The woman began her travels, turning over rocks and asking questions of the universe as she went. A long time passed this way until rumors of the woman began to spread. She moved from village to village, town to town, city to city. Her journey took her over hills and basins, highlands and lowlands, mountains and valleys; traversing streams, creeks, rivers; over ponds, lakes, even oceans. Many years she traveled until the rumors of the woman grew to legend. Still, she continued seeking until she became wise, old, and tired.
One day, the woman suddenly felt a longing to return home. She stopped walking, stood in the road for a moment, then took a backward step. In that instant, the answers to everything she had been seeking filled her mind. She stood there briefly, turned around, and with a soft face, began walking home to her village.
News of the woman’s return began to spread and many people gathered at her village to meet her return. A crowd grew, waiting in excitement. Murmurs, then a commotion—they saw her approaching and surrounded her. There they all stood still, looking upon the woman. They looked into her eyes and could see that she was different from the woman who had left all those years before. She was changed.
Finally, they said ‘Tell us! What are the answers to the meaning of life and the mysteries of the universe?’
The woman gave them the answer.
Upon hearing the answer, the people of the village went back to their lives as things were before, unchanged.”
Then the mother said, “Would you like to know what she told them?”
“Yes, very much.”
Drawing near the girl’s ear, the mother whispered, “The answer is not the answer. The answer is the journey.”
“Now then.” The mother drew a breath and repeated her question. Would you like me to tell you the answer or do you wish to truly know?”
The mother, musing on her own adventures, told of the many metaphors of love. She shared tales of passions—some old, some new—story after story, often embarrassing, sad, and sweet.