Asking the Questions You don’t Want Answers To
We all have questions, it’s natural. As quickly as a child can establish fundamental communication, they will begin to seek answers. To be fair to the child, the world offers many things to inquire about. As we grow older the questions evolve from simple clarifications of the world around us to more intricate queries of science, economics, politics, humanity, and more. However, there is another concerning development that comes with age. We begin to ask fewer questions and assume we have more answers. In some cases that could be a valid statement. If you can read this, you probably don’t need to know why the sun rises each morning, why you can’t touch the hot stove, or where babies come from. Unfortunately, we will often stop questioning things for a different reason. To put it simply, we don’t want to rock the boat.
Life can be a fragile balance enough as it is. Why should we go poking around for answers to things when we are comfortable the way we are? Once you start asking questions, you might open yourself up to a fair amount of personal turmoil. So how do we deal with this risk? Often enough we will just avoid looking deeper into things we don’t completely understand. This can take many different forms. A couple of popular examples could be: “My daddy never questioned it, and his daddy never questioned it, so why should I?” or “It’s just the way it is”. And those don’t even include the most sneaky of all question repellants, “Tradition”.
Tradition can have an incredibly large role in our lives. It can dictate our careers, diets, relationships, families, political views, and religious beliefs. When we live a life rooted in tradition, questioning that tradition can cause a massive upheaval of our world. It can also be abrasive to those around us who have been living within the framework of their traditional practices. You might be thinking strictly about faiths and religions, (and we will get to that) but for now, I want to focus on a few other examples that tend to appear in our current world.
“Hate is the combination of fear and lack of understanding”. While that is not entirely encapsulating of a very complex issue, this is a concept that I want to focus on. Unless you are the aforementioned child with a plethora of questions, you probably understand that racism is alive and well in our society. Even just the word “racist” probably brings someone to mind (and if it doesn’t I strongly suggest some serious introspection). Fear is an interesting issue that you can assign blame to a variety of things. A person’s upbringing, unfortunate experiences, 24/7 news hell-bent on selling headlines, or even our friend Tradition can all be given a share of the credit for generating fear in our lives. In this case, however, we will be focusing on the lack of understanding.
How quick we are to judge those that we feel are acting outside of our societal boundaries. We have all watched, for literal decades of American history, African Americans fight for equality. Fellow human beings have died for the right to be free people, the right to vote, the right to use the same facilities as white humans, and most recently the freedom to have the same opportunities as anyone else.
I don’t want to discredit the millions of people who have asked how they can help, what can be done, or even for just a better understanding. But, this is about those who don’t ask questions. People who choose ignorance over understanding. In some cases, rather than ask questions, people may even assign blame or come up with excuses for not caring enough to ask.
“Well some of them are acting out of line, so none of them deserve any attention”.
“It’s their own fault, it’s their communities that are the problem”.
“People need to calm down, things aren’t even that bad anymore”.
These are just a few highlights from some people I know, and you can see the theme. It is much easier to dismiss an issue than it is to consider any action required on your end. Even if those three statements were one-hundred percent accurate, would they not bring up questions of their own? Why are people this angry? How can we improve the communities? Can things not be improved just because they have been improved in the past?
I understand though, ignorance is bliss. It sure is a lot easier to look the other way and keep your life comfortable. Hey, you posted the black square, didn’t you?
Probably one of the largest instances of not asking questions comes in the form of political disagreements. The country is a very big, very complex system to run. You would have to be egomaniacal to even consider that you could preside over one of the most intricate systems in the course of human civilization. A nation with so many intertwined processes, systems, regulations, and expectations is almost certainly impossible to run perfectly. Nevertheless, we will argue well into the night how our ideas are going to fix the unfixable machine. How dare you question my ideas?
Often enough, political disagreements are usually based on policy. Frequently we are aiming for the same target, but have different ideas on how to get there. These conversations are certainly opportunities to ask not just what people think, but why they think it. If you can master asking why, and keeping an open mind, you will certainly become a more well-rounded person. You may still not agree, but you can certainly develop an understanding. Will it be uncomfortable? Certainly. We are asking questions we don’t want the answers to.
There is another form of political disagreement that is less straightforward, however. These discussions are often based on one's morals. Changing your opinions on policies pales in comparison to changing the things you hold up as the rules of life. After all, these are the things that define you as a person. You can't just go and change your moral beliefs. Or can you?
The most difficult thing to question in life is your religion. Your religion defines you as a person, determines your community, and sets the expectations for your current life and what happens after death. Once you begin to poke holes and question your core belief system, it can drive you over the edge. Rapidly it can seem that everything you based your entire life on is unwinding. It can have such a significant effect that there is a good chance you have been taught to not ever question it.
Well, why should we base our entire lives around a belief system that feels like it can crumble at the first suggestion of opposition? Some will say that it is certain proof that the beliefs were baseless in the first place. Others might argue that questioning the system itself is wrong, and once you question it, you lose the ability to understand it. And finally, others may point out that it is the beauty of faith. To believe in what you can not see and can not understand.
Today is not the day to dig into the details, and we all have our own perceptions already. I merely want to point out another aspect of our life that many of us dare not question. Those of us who do often end up either more confused or with a different outlook on certain aspects of life. Perhaps a change in our perspective is exactly what we need though? It might even help with the first two topics I listed.
These are three aspects of life that people have a hard time questioning, but there are certainly countless more. What are we afraid of? Becoming better people? Improving our lives and those of the people around us? You already know the answer.
I don’t want to rock the boat as much as anyone else, but I understand that to live a full life, it will require getting splashed a few times. In fact, you can easily fall out of the boat if you try hard enough. But would you rather take the easy ride and just coast through life assuming you are right in everything? There are plenty of people who want exactly that, but I encourage you to rock the boat. Question things you are certain about. Even if you don’t change your opinions, you can still develop an understanding. We could all use a little more understanding.