The Story of Questions

"Many stories ago, when the first gods – those who made the world – were still circling through the night, there were these two other gods – Ik’al and Votán.

The two were only one. When one was turning himself around, the other would show himself, and when the other one was turning himself around, the first one would show himself. They were opposites. One was light like a May morning at the river. The other was dark like night of cold and cave.

They were the same thing. They were one, these two, because one made the other. But they would not walk themselves, staying there always, these two gods who were one without moving.

‘What should we do then?’ the two of them asked.

‘Life is sad enough as it is,’ they lamented, the two who were one in staying without moving.

‘Night never passes,’ said Ik’al.

‘Day never passes,’ said Votán.

‘Let’s walk,’ said the one who was two.

‘How?’ asked the other.

‘Where?’ asked the one.

And they saw that they had moved a little, first to ask how, then to ask where. The one who was two became very happy when the one saw that they were moving themselves a little. Both of them wanted to move at the same time, but they couldn’t do it themselves.

‘How should we do it then?’

And one would come around first and then the other and they would move just a little bit more and they realized that they could movie if one went first, then the other. So they came to an agreement that—in order to move—one had to move first, then the other. So they started walking and now no one remembers who started walking first because at the time they were so happy just to be moving…

And ‘Who cares who was first since we’re moving now?’ said the gods who were one and the same and they laughed at each other and the first agreement they made was to dance, and they danced, one little step by one, one little step by the other, and they danced for a long time because they were so happy that they had found each other. Then they got tired of so much dancing and they looked for something else to do.

And they saw that the first question was, ‘How do we move?’ and the answer was, ‘Together but separately and in agreement.’ But that question wasn’t important anymore because they realized that they were already walking, and so another question came up when they saw that there were two roads in front of them:

One road was very short and it just got over to there and they could see clearly that this road would end right away and their feet were so full of joy from walking that they said right then that the first road was too short and they didn’t want to walk it and so they made an agreement to walk the long road.

And they were going to start walking when their answer to choose the long road brought another question—‘Where does this road take us?’ They took a long time to think about the answer and the two who were one got the bright idea that only by walking the long road were they going to know where the road took them. If they remained where they were, they were never going to know where the long road leads.

The two who were one said to each other:

‘So let’s walk it then,’ and they started walking, first the one and then the other. And only then and there did they realize that it was taking a long time to walk the long road, so another question came up: ‘How are we going to walk for such a long time?’ And they stayed thinking a good while and then Ik’al said real clearly that he didn’t know how to walk by day and Votán said he was afraid to walk at night and they stayed there, crying for a long time.

And when all the waling and hollering was over, they came to an agreement and they saw that it was fine for Ik’al to walk only at night and for Votán to walk only during the day and Ik’al would walk for Votán during the night and that is how they came up with the answer for walking all the time. Since then the gods have walked with questions and they never, never stop – they never arrive and they never go away.

This is how the true men and women learned that questions are for walking, not for just standing around and doing nothing. And since then, when true men and women want to walk, they ask questions. When they want to arrive, they take leave. And when they want to leave, they say hello. They are never still."

(as told by Subcomandante Marcos, Zapatista Army for National Liberation, Mexico)