A riddle by Mark Twain

FIRST and foremost, Who is Mark Twain?

If you think my question is silly, superfluous, or too over-the-top, then you are intelligent or very much schooled — because you know who Mark Twain is in a split second.

If you are shaking your head — I’m sorry to say — you’re an ignoramus. Sorry for the term, dear reader. Maybe you’re just too forgetful (gosh, like me, Alzheimer’s victim). Or, maybe, your elementary school teacher omitted Mark Twain in the lesson plan. Bad, very bad. A grave omission.

Well, Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) is my favorite American author. Who can match the deep insight and humor? The meticulous reader will go Google and find that his real name is Samuel Langhorne Clemens “an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer.” But, of course, carved in stone to be idiomatic about it, is the nom de plume: Mark Twain.

Can you remember The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Classic stories for young people. Recall an episode about White-washing the Fence where Tom Sawyer was able to avoid his assigned task by making painting the fence so enjoyable that he made all the other boys do the work for him. Clever son-of-a-gun, he he. Joking lightly, folks.

Then there’s The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County which we took up in freshman English in UPIC (UP Iloilo College). There was no UP Visayas then. No betting as to whose frog can jump the longest distance. We didn’t do the frog contest. We youngsters played hide-and-seek, tin-tin, baseball, etc.

In the DOSC (Downtown Oakland Senior Center) in California, U.S.A. where I am currently on vacation, we have a Current Events session. We are a group of retirees — some are professors and alumni of different universities. We discuss the news headlines of the day, after which, anyone can come up with any topic up his/her sleeve, or anything at all. I turned up with a riddle by Mark Twain: What is it that the blind can see and the deaf can hear?

Love was the reply that came in unison. I shook my head. Another blurted out Compassion. Love, Compassion — the very words that came to my mind in reply to Mark Twain’s riddle. Before we get to the answer; here’s another instance when I asked the riddle.

We were in a roundtable dinner in our Barangay San Antonio, Oton. There was leisurely chatter — right time for Mark Twain’s riddle. Love was the unanimous reply. High time for a hint: The answer begins with letter k. Fr. Rendon, then with the Oton Parish, said it loud and clear: Kindness.

You got it, Fr. Rendon. Kindness, yes, simple acts of kindness without the torrid love scenes — kindness replete with compassion.


Julia Carreon-Lagoc was a columnist of PANAY NEWS for two decades. She pops up with Accents now and then. ([email protected])/PN


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