by Ryszard Cichy

The questions I intend to ask fall into the category of those which nobody is able to answer at present.  The same or similar questions were being asked long ago, are being asked now and will be asked by many of us in the future.  Nothing new.  Nothing revelatory.  The attempts to answer are no doubt similar too.


Most of us, for one reason or another, avoid trying to dwell on them.  Why occupy ourselves with matters which are more than likely to remain forever a puzzle, an unfathomable mystery and, furthermore, when articulated invoke anxiety, destroy harmony and our satisfaction with life?

Why think about our old age when to everyone who is not old it seems so far away?  Why wonder where we will die?  Sick in some strange hospital?  During a journey tragically cut short, on the road in winter, in mud and pain?

Why think about how we are going to die?  Whether those surrounding us at that moment will be kind, indifferent or perhaps impatient?


We can imagine what our children or grandchildren will be like.  Will their lives be lived well, who will they become?  I doubt whether anyone has thought much over how his or her descendants of later generations are going to live, whether they are going to be healthy, or how they are going to die.  The horizon which forms our past is similarly limited.  I doubt whether we think about the conditions in which our great-great-grandfather several hundreds of years ago used to live or whether he was happy.


Young people do not think about growing old or dying.  Nevertheless, growing aware of the transitory nature of things, noticing the transformation of what was once a young person into an adult – something we see when looking at photographs taken years ago which show the face of the smiling child we had once been – I, at least, distinctly feel the need to note questions down for myself.  Merely in order to ask them.

Although many books have been written, nowhere do we find the answers to any of these fundamental questions.  We still do not know what time is, what Life is and why it was created.  We still do not know why we die.


It seems that all these discoveries take us further away from learning the mystery of the World’s existence.  It can be compared to a tourist visiting an unknown city.  He wants to see as much as possible; looking at one street they decide to see what lies beyond the crossroads.  He sees another crossroads. He goes further.  And so on endlessly.  It is the same with scientific discoveries.  After making what seem to be groundbreaking discoveries we think that humanity is but a short step away from getting to the crux of the matter.  Later it turns out that this is merely another crossroads.

Not so long ago the atom was discovered.  Shortly after, it turned out that it is by no means the smallest particle of which matter is built, that it is itself made up of still smaller corpuscles (protons, neutrons, electrons).  Then once more it was discovered that these are made up of still smaller items, quarks.  Soon it might turn out that these too are made up of some still smaller corpuscles.

It is the same with discoveries concerning the construction of the Cosmos.  The longer and the more thoroughly it is examined, the more stars and planets we find.


The questions I ask may seem naïve.  They are being posed by an office worker on the threshold of retirement, not some physicist, mathematician, biologist or philosopher.  They are instigated more by intuition than reason.  By noting them down I am ridding myself of the anxiety they created.

QUESTIONS by Ryszard Cichy, Wrocław 2008 Retro-Art, Warszawa 2008, ISBN 978-83-87992-56-9 translated by Danusia Stok