Asking For Trouble
When I was eight years old sitting at the kitchen table, my father was sitting nearby read a newspaper nearby a math question. His response was "go sit down and try to figure it out yourself." After repeated attempts, failures, parental rejections and subsequent tears, I gave up asking. My simple request for assistance for a 3rd grade math problem was rebuffed time and time again. So the underlying messages seemed loud and clear to me...
"Answer my own questions."
"Never ask my father a question again."
Of course, I did not realize at the time what my father's response was actually more multi-layered that I could have then imagined. In fact, it was decades later before I realized that he, having grown up as an only child, had probably endured similar parental messages. His mother neither attended his high school nor college graduations. When I finally grasped what had happened when I asked a simple 3rd-grade math question, I began to have a greater appreciation for who he was. Nevertheless, the damage was done in my youth....and as a result, I rarely asked my father for any assistance for the REST of his life. His initial message was what I carried with me for decades.
Today we ask Google, Watson or Siri for an answer. No more asking dad for an answer. No more leafing through an encyclopedia when conducting a search by pushing a few keystrokes is so much easier and convenient. While questions will perpetually persist, their answers continue to change as well. Just consider the question "Is the Earth flat?" as to the evolution of its answers.
I am more even amazed by the impact and the denial of questions. Questions pose possibilities and position thought so answers have to find their place. When people grave a certain answer and formutate questions based on what they want rather than what is always leads to trouble. But what truly astonishes me is how thoughtful questions often populate ideas and thought. They frequently stimulate and regenerate understanding and perspective.
Who are you?
Why are you you?
What do you want?
Where are you headed?
How are you going to get where you are going?
What is my point of sail?
How high can I point my boat?
What's the point?
While answers may be more accessible than ever before in the history of mankind, what is obvious to me is questions often need to be to be asked and understood. What is often disappointing is that the important questions either don't get asked or are often overlooked.
Maybe it is because some questions reveal more insight than our answers.
Maybe answers are simply overrated. Maybe the implied tells us more about what we really want and need to know. An actual surface question may best be answered while harder questions left for the more erudite?
Too bad some answers obscure what is being asked Some of us only hear our own thoughts but fail to answer what is being asked for. And then miss the point. Questions often carry underlying messages called metamessages - inferred or implied meaning. For example: When you read between the lines, you might find a metamessage behind what somebody is outwardly saying.
Ever been afraid to ask for help?
Ever wished you had asked a better question?
Ever ask at the wrong time?
Ever wish you had never asked the question?
Ever wished you had been asked?
Ever feel overwhelmed by a question?
Ever feel a question was better left unanswered?
Ever realize questions are more vital than seeking answers?
Ever wish you had all the answers?
Ever ask the wrong question?
Ever wish you hadn't answered?
Often if you don't ask, you don't discover.
When most of us don't get an answer, we probably tend towards not asking any more. This short, seemingly insignificant event in many ways became a defining moment for me and my curiosity. For many years thereafter I did not and could not understand why my father hadn't or couldn't have helped me. Ironically that frustrating feeling almost 57 years ago helped me eventually get my head out of the clouds or other - one of the many reasons I pursued education as a career.
Though questions lead to answers, they also often generate more questions. As eager as many people tare to find answers, one can discover more by asking. The questions we ask are frequently more important than their answers. Because they probe a subject in a certain way, they may unduly sway an answer. Changing the question may alter the answer. Sometimes we don't ask because we are scared of the answer. Sometimes there is no right answer...sometimes there may be only possibilities. Most of the time, if we don't ask, we don't know. After all, knowing wind direction, velocity your competition, and the clock are some of the important factors one need ask oneself or others.about
Sailing often answers...
Recently I asked a bank teller...
"Why a wire transfer finance charge was not explained."
Her answer..."You didn't ask us."
My reply answer... "I don't have all the information?"
Her response..."You should know it. It's written in our fine print somewhere."
My response..."Do you find it anywhere odd that your title as "a teller" would not tell me information that could help me?.....Please, no need to answer my question. I know the answer and your message!"
I used to tell students "there is no such thing as a stupid question." But I white-washed and white-lied because I wanted to encourage confidence and curiosity rather than endorse or encourage hesitancy towards intelligent, insightful dialogue. But, of course, students would eventually ask, "May I go to the bathroom?" or "Does homework count?" or "Can we get excused early today?" Of course, those kinds of questions never counted because they escaped or avoided legitimate questions and answers. Mundane questions often send other messages as well.
I once taught a class where students could only ask questions related to each other...no answers were allowed. Probably the most challenging and interesting class ever. I have come to the conclusion in life that people either seek questions and/or answers or they avoid them. Of course, students of life are curiosity-seekers and explorers. They want to know, but they do not have to know all the answers. It is understanding that they seek...not a collection of facts or knowledge. I once met a head-hunter (not a primitive one) who told me the most important quality he sought in interviewing candidates for high-powered jobs was curiosity. It did not matter what college degree they had earned or what university they had attended. What mattered to him was how inquisitive that individual was. To him the questions the candidate asked reflected the depth and dimensions of that individual. The better the questions, the more qualified the prospect.
Beautiful and terrible,
Crashing on to the jagged shell-strewn shores of my mind,
Stinging my eyes with saltwater.
Wishes and wonders coalesce on the ocean floor,
Millions of fathoms deep.
A world undiscovered, no one dare venture so far.
Teeming with questions and confusion,
Darting through the murky depths,
Like frightened, chaotic sea creatures.
uestions about Questions
Undoubtedly many from the Baby Boomer generation experience questions in a similar way. When they asked their elders a question like "How do you spell antidisestablishmentarianism?" The frequent answer might have been "Look it up in a dictionary, encyclopedia or local library. What are the messages that come from this kind of situation?
Not answering questions only hides our own ignorance to 3rd grade math or spelling questions And the thought that our parents knew little about encouragement and confidence-building. After all, no response is answering uncertainty.