Miles learns about koans, which are a type of riddle in Zen Buddhism that are meant to help people find enlightenment. Miles hopes that he might be struck by enlightenment the way that people in the Buddhist stories are, but he thinks it’s unlikely. Dr. Hyde draws the class’ attention to the Buddhist idea that everything will eventually fall apart. He relates this theory to Alaska’s question, which is still written on the board.
Miles gains perspective on Alaska’s death in Dr. Hyde’s class. For the past fifty-one days, Alaska’s death has defined Miles’ life. But, Dr. Hyde reminds him, everyone will die and everyone will suffer. As devastating and painful as Alaska’s death has been, everyone in the world will experience something similar.
Miles likes the idea that someday no one in the world will remember Alaska. She has started to slip out of his memory, and he considers this to be her second death. Miles thinks that maybe they will never know why Alaska fell apart—maybe she fell apart because everything falls apart. But this answer isn’t enough for Miles. Even though he was initially resistant to figuring out what happened to Alaska, he now wants to find answers.
When Miles considers the idea that maybe Alaska died because simply because death is inevitable, he frees himself from some of the guilt he has held on to since her death. Miles accepts that he may never know why she died, but he is determined to keep looking for answers.