Once upon a time, a long long time ago, up in the mountains, beyond the thick impenetrable forest, far away from civilisation, lived a hermit in a cave.
No one had really seen him. It was just word of mouth. People said to each other he existed and so the legend grew that there was a hermit up there in the mountains.
One day an anthropologist decided to find out for himself. He set off for the long journey through the forest, up the mountain, until finally he found the cave. And he did it all without a satellite navigation system.
When he reached the cave, the third one from the right, the hermit came out to meet him. He looked very old. Older than the hills, as they say. But then, no one knew how old the hills were because they had moved away long ago. They lived in the first cave from the right.
The anthropologist's first question, rather indelicately, was, "how old are you?"
"Oh ... I ceased to count when I reached ninety!" was the hermit's reply in perfect English. (No matter where you go these days there's always someone who speaks English).
"What is the secret of long life?" asked the visitor.
"Avoiding stupid questions from fatheads like you," was the hermit's answer.
Then, after a period of silence, the hermit continued gently. "I was not always this age, you know," he said, "there was a time when I was younger. But these days there aren't many young people in their nineties. They all seem to be younger than ninety, somehow!"
"Are you saying age is relative?" asked the anthropologist hoping to get a quotable quote.
"Everything is relative," replied the hermit, "what is relative to one man is not to another. These days it seems everyone is intent on wealth and possessions. It's the modern Theory of Relativity. The richer you are the more relatives will attend your funeral!"
"That's sad!" muttered the visitor sitting down on the ground.
"Take my situation, for instance," continued the hermit, "I have no money, no possessions, no furniture or luxury goods, no latest fashionable clothing, or anything like that. I live in an empty cave and eat berries, and fruits and I'm satisfied with my own company. Yet your civilisation is different. People spend their lives running round in circles like a dog chasing its tail. From early childhood you're competitive to study harder, play harder, work harder, get a better job, find a great spouse, have a wonderful family, strive to provide for them and for all their needs, see them grow up and hope they turn out well and don't make the wrong decisions, push them to succeed, and before you know it they are grown up with their own families and you're there on the sidelines wondering where has all your live gone so quickly!"
"But that's the cycle of life!" said the anthropologist.
"I don't have a cycle," replied the hermit, "I told you. I have no possessions. No cycle, no car, yacht or any of the other accoutrements of success which modern society commands. Like a fully fitted luxury kitchen, air-conditioning, swimming pool and so on."
"You seem very well informed considering you've spent all your life living here alone in this cave, and I'm your first ever visitor," said the anthropologist, "where do you get all your information from?"
"From my TV!" replied the hermit.