Thursday, September 23, 2010

Critical Thinking: Questions 101

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-=[ Questions ]=-

You see things that are and say 'Why?'
But I dream things that never were and say "Why not?

-- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

I have learned that questions are the very substance of who we are and what we do. I have learned that almost everything we do, every decision we make, is a response to an inner question. It’s unfortunate, I often think, that “Questions 101” is not a regular feature in our classrooms. But then again, does the status quo really want to create critical and questioning human beings?

One of my favorite sci-fi novels, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, deals with this very issue of questions. In it a massive supercomputer is designed to give the ultimate, the absolute answer, an answer that would explain “God, life, the universe, and everything.” But the computer takes seven and a half million years to come to an answer, and by that time, everybody has forgotten the question. LOL So, nobody remembers the ultimate question, but the ultimate answer is: 42.

This is amazing! Finally! The Answer! So wonderful is the answer that immediately a contest is held to see if anyone can come up with “The Question.” Many profound questions are submitted, but the final winner is: “How many roads must a man walk down?”

Reflecting about “God, life, the universe, and everything” is pretty much what my life has been about -- the unexamined life, in my book, is an unworthy one. Of course, the answer may be not as clever as “42.” Perhaps the answers deal with matter, life, mind, and spirit, and the underlying evolutionary currents that seems to unite them all in a pattern that connects. The “Web with no Weaver,” as the integral philosopher, Ken Wilber, puts it.

For some time now, I have tried to embody this spirit of questioning. I guess part of my personal mission is to prod others to question, to look for the unasked questions and to try to understand who decides what questions will be asked and why. I think that’s part of my motivation -- I want people to ask, to question, to investigate their lives. If I were to die today, I would like to believe that I made some difference in the lives of the people I touch. I would want people to say something along the lines of, “He was a crazy motherfucker, but he cared, and he touched my life (or some private parts ::wink::) in a special way.” Or something like that.

In this crazy world all we can be sure of is the punch line to this grand Cosmic Joke we call life -- death. In the midst of all this uncertainty, we grope for meaning or something that gives us a foundation of sorts. Sometimes this clinging is the core of our pain, sometimes having no meaning in one’s life is a key component to pain. So then, this is my meaning -- my mission: to rattle the cage a wee bit, to ask the unasked question and to ask you, dear reader and friend:

Why not?

My endeavor is to be part of a an ongoing process where the curious, the apathetic, the wounded and fragmented, the lonely and the happy can meet to create meaning together. Where we can all come together and tell our stories without censure and to ask the questions that need asking and then support each other somehow when the answers are too harsh or too painful to bear.

I remember a time when that was called community…



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