"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -Socrates

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Unique Question

People ask many questions in the forms of who, what, when, where, how, and why. We ask questions daily, but there is one form of questioning I find to be somewhat different than the others. In school we are asked things like, “Who first landed on the Moon? What part of our brain enables us to speak? When was the Constitution written? Where did the Pilgrims first land in America?” and, “How do you find the root of a number?” These questions can all be answered by facts through historical documents, mathematical equations, scientific formulas, etc., and are rarely subject for debate. But to ask a student any of these using the “why” form of questioning, a plethora of answers could be presented, many of which could be disagreed upon. “Why” is a very interesting question for this reason.

“What do you want to be when you grow up? Where is your favorite place in the world? When do you want to retire? Who will you vote for?” These questions are answered by the preferences of individuals and take more thought than reciting a memorized date or equation. But looking at each of these questions, to think about the “whys” behind the answers is a much more difficult subject.

We often ask people what they do for a living, or where they live without following with asking why. It almost seems that why is most frequently used when someone holds an alternative view to another’s opinion, or if someone doesn’t understand the reason behind an event. If a kind-hearted person were to see someone mistreating someone else for no reason they may ask, “Why would someone do that?” The reason is because, as a kind-hearted person, they could not relate. One may ask why because they themselves do not value the same thing as someone else, such as, “Why would you want that? It’s so ugly!” or, “Why would you want to do that?” Holding different opinions on a topic can promote asking why as to better understand a person or point of view.

The unique thing about why is that it forces us to take a step back and reflect on what’s giving us that desire, goal, or motive toward whatever the questions directed. I believe that by asking why we can learn more about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Imagine if in schools dates, names, and places were followed by why. “Why did man pursue landing on the Moon? Why does our brain work the way it does? Why was the Constitution written?” If we focused on the reasons behind the actions, I believe we would live in a much different world.

Why do you do what you do?