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You walk through your grandfather's house one last time.

It has been three months since he drove off and left, telling no one where he was headed.

You look through his address book, searching for one of his old friends who still may be alive, someone who may know where it is he'd gone. Or if he would ever come back.

Defeated, you flip to the back. A yellowed slip of paper falls out. This, you think, may be something.

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?  
I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.  
You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive  
Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.  
You see life at all turns, from up on the top  
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried  
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.  
They thought there was time, but running on breath  
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

Please go and live a life fulfilled  
Unless your end is truly your will.

The poem is not shy about its message of death, but its meaning is lost on you for a moment. Nonetheless, it seems grandfather did not heed the warning.

What is it your grandfather attempted to live beneath?

EDIT: I have added a tag to point more people in the direction of grandfather's folly. Many of these answers fit beautifully, but user1566694's approach is certainly a strong one.

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closed as too broad by Engineer Toast, Rand al'Thor, IAmInPLS, Dan Russell, Beastly Gerbil Oct 11 '16 at 16:22

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ If my grandpa were to advise, he would say 'don't live below your potential' $\endgroup$ – WeShall Oct 10 '16 at 15:44

10 Answers 10

8
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I think the message warns about

The E-line indicating an empty fuel tank.

The main clue being that

Grandpa drove away, and did not return.

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?

You're almost out of fuel

I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

It indicates and empty fuel tank in theory, but you might still be able to drive a bit

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive

You won't know when you will run out of fuel, hence will keep worrying about it and not thrive

Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

The car won't have power or be able to drive when you run out

You see life at all turns, from up on the top

You can drive around and see things with a full tank

But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

You will stop when you run out of fuel.

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

Some people push the limits of how close they can get to running out of fuel, but once you run out, you also cannot get to a pump to refuel

They thought there was time, but running on breath

Running on fumes

They could not go further, nor rise above death.

Again, once you run out you stop, you also cannot get to a pump to refuel

Please go and live a life fulfilled

Fill your fuel tank

Unless your end is truly your will.

Your journey will end

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  • $\begingroup$ This is it! While there were many great answers (more than I thought there would be), this is the one that best goes line for line in finding the solution. And you correctly notice that grandpa drove away, which explains why he hasn't returned. $\endgroup$ – raisinghellyer Oct 11 '16 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ I simply love the ful(l)filled part. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Oct 11 '16 at 17:26
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I think it's

The sea

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?
I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

No oxygen under the sea and you measure altitude as metres above sea level. So sea level (0 metres above sea level) is as low as you can go (without going under)

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive
Down here you’ll be lacking - little power, little drive.

Humans aren't aquatic animals, and water makes your movements sluggish

You see life at all turns, from up on the top
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

From above you can see the waves, but from below you'll soon see nothing on account of being dead

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

Many people drown each year

They thought there was time, but running on breath
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

You can't hold your breath that long

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

Don't live die below the sea! (Unless suicide is your will)

To my surprise this is not the answer.... So keep thinking!

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  • $\begingroup$ I love this answer, Beastly, and it does fit remarkably well, but it is not what I was looking for. $\endgroup$ – raisinghellyer Oct 7 '16 at 13:31
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Almost sure this is wrong, but might Grandfather have tried to live below...

Zero?


Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?

If you think of zero as the freezing temperature of water, life doesn't fare as well below it. Or if you take it as the number zero, living below it could describe a denominator or division, in which case zero is (always?) the only number that survives that operation.

I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

You could say so if you forget about negative numbers. In the real world, for instance, grandfather may have had zero hairs on his head last time you saw him, but he very likely didn't have negative hairs.

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive
Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

Numbers make little difference as the denominator of zero.

You see life at all turns, from up on the top
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

Divide zero by grandpa and the result is zero (no grandpa), but add grandpa to zero and multiply by some cousins and it gets much more interesting.

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

Again, zero divided by any grandparent is just zero.

They thought there was time, but running on breath
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

Still just the math thing, zero being death in this case.

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

Go forth and multiply.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're thinking outside of the box, which is a good angle to take, but it is not below 0. $\endgroup$ – raisinghellyer Oct 7 '16 at 13:36
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Is it

the poverty line?

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?

poor folk tend to have poor health/standards of living

I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

poor folk are on the end of the wealth spectrum

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive
Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

when you struggle with basic necessities, you have no time to focus on other things

You see life at all turns, from up on the top

people with money can buy their opportunities

But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

you can die from poor health standards

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

poor people tend to be happy with what they have, or lack the drive, and can't/don't try to improve their situation

They thought there was time, but running on breath

poor people's life expectancy is shorter

They could not go further, nor rise above death.

similar to what I said before "being stuck in a rut"

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

the grandfather is urging his nephew to improve his situation

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4
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Your grandfather wrote a poem about

the subsistence level.

You don't want to "do" below that.


Edit: to satisfy the knowledge-thirst of the kind commenters, I offer @jstnthms's similar, but more in-depth answer, as a reference. I also encourage all of those very many upvoters who found this idea helpful to also upvote the referenced post.

From OED:

The the subsistence level: A standard of living (or wage) that provides only the bare necessities of life, as in ‘many peasants hardly existed above subsistence level’.

This is an interesting puzzle, since it is a combination of a classical riddle ("What I am?") with a surrounding (usually rather distractive) story probably carrying vital information to the solution.

The poem clearly shows the writings of a troubled individual, but the source of the trouble is unclear. The giveaway sentence for this proposed answer is the second line

I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

where it is hinted that the riddle might be an abstract concept. For very briefly I also considered this answer from another user, but it seemed unlikely that a dying grandfather's last breath would be a warning about the coming winter (and this is the part where you infer some clues to the riddle from the surrounding story).

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Please explain why you think this answer is correct, i.e. how it fits the riddle as stated. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 6 '16 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor Yes, indeed, this answer is rather short. Keeping in mind that the comment section is not for extended discussions, I would like to note a couple of things: 1) If something is clear, than it does not need to be overexplained; 2) If something is not-a-really-good answer, then overexplaining it unnecessarily not going to make it a really good answer. It will only make it longer. 3) It seems that frequent edits, say 5 within 2 hours seems to be a little too much. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Oct 6 '16 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Matsmath, answers without explanation are deleted - especially those about riddles. Please explain your answer. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Oct 6 '16 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Matsmath 0) I wouldn't worry about that "comment section is not for extended discussions" thing too much, really. After all, these comments are relevant since we're talking about the answer itself. 1) Answers here do need to be explained. What's clear to you may not be so to others. 2) Nevertheless, an explanation will improve the answer. 3) So what? All you need to do is one edit to add an explanation. You seem to be trying to follow some guidelines to the letter in order to get away with not following others. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 6 '16 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ All right, all right, I see what I can come up with later today. Thank you for your suggestions! $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Oct 7 '16 at 6:28
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okay, changing my answer slightly, I think he is living

Underground

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?
I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

the ground is literally 'rock bottom'

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive

perhaps a pun on accel, like acceleration from subways and trains?

Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

not many lights or other forms of power, and you're underneath roads where people drive

You see life at all turns, from up on the top
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

up on the streets you see many people and cars and trains turning

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

there are lots of mole people who live under cities

They thought there was time, but running on breath
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

the biggest problem with living underground is a lack of clean air, you're literally 'running on breath' Carbon monoxide poisoning is an issue in tunnels and mines

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

Don't live under ground!

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  • $\begingroup$ This isn't it, but there are a few places where you're on the right track (no subway pun intended here). Also, any answer with reference to mole people gets high marks, if you ask me. $\endgroup$ – raisinghellyer Oct 7 '16 at 13:33
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Is it possibly

under(beneath) the influence (of drugs alcohol etc)

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?
I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

societal perceptions of the users/drunkards

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive
Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

appeal of drugs can alter motivation etc, but also it can be hard to find motivation when you are surrounded by other users

You see life at all turns, from up on the top
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

from up on the top of a high you see life around you and can't full experience it

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.
They thought there was time, but running on breath
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

overdose/death resulting from extended use and neglect

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

don't do drugs kids

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It is literal, not a riddle. He wrote it himself, about himself, to his grandchild.

He had a house, and wealth. His grandchild lived there and cared for him. He lived a long life and others had tried to care for him. He out-lived them all.

He did not want to be a burden and was depressed. He left the house to his grandchild, who he knew would sell it. His encouragement to live life to the fullest is his consent and blessing.

The old man is probably on the Baja, enjoying the sunset. Happens all the time.

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  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't make any sense. How is he "the lowest of the low"? Why is it dangerous to live below him? Plus, the question is "What is it your grandfather attempted to live beneath?", and it doesn't make any sense to say he tried to live beneath himself. $\endgroup$ – Leafy Greens Oct 7 '16 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ You have obviously never been depressed, bless you. $\endgroup$ – Dominic Cerisano Oct 7 '16 at 22:44
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I was sure Beatly Gerbil had gotten it right, but since his answer isn't it, could it be

...a bog, or swamp?

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?
I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

Not sure how a bog is the lowest of the low, but it would certainly be dangerous to try to live under one.

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive
Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

Humans can't live without oxygen to breathe, and under a swamp there would be only decaying plant matter and water.

You see life at all turns, from up on the top
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

Many plants and animals live in swamps and bogs, but only on the surface. Many preserved corpses have been found buried in the peat.

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

As above, mummified corpses have been discovered deep in bogs, preserved by the unique conditions.

They thought there was time, but running on breath
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

If you rely on air to live, you will quickly suffocate under the dense plant matter that bogs contain.

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

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I think maybe you're a

Dam

Don’t you know it’s dangerous to live below me?
I’m the lowest of the low, at least in theory.

A dam is the bottom of a reservoir of water. It's dangerous if it breaks.

You’ll want to excel, but this is no place to thrive
Down here you’ll be lacking- little power, little drive.

You see life at all turns, from up on the top
But down beneath me, your life can soon stop.

At elevation, from where a water source would be dammed, you can see far. If the dam were to break while you were below it, it would be disaster.

Don’t live beneath me, there’ve been many who’ve tried
But beneath me they've stayed, and beneath me they've died.

In a valley, for example, living beneath a broken dam would be perilous and easily fatal. Many have lived and died beneath a broken dam.

They thought there was time, but running on breath
They could not go further, nor rise above death.

In a broken dam scenario, you cannot outrun the rush of water and you'll drown.

Please go and live a life fulfilled
Unless your end is truly your will.

It's saying, don't tempt fate and live elsewhere, not below the dam.

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