The wondrous thing that “questions” are

In “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and the Art of Living”, Krista Tippett writes: “If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned this: a question is a powerful thing, a mighty use of words.”

In “Big Questions from Little People and Simple Answers from Great Minds”, we see an assembly of over 100 questions from children between the ages of four and twelve, and answers to these from leading scientists, thinkers, artists, and explorers. The questions are astonishing – some profound, some moving, some giving us a glimpse of a mischievous child, and others conveying an innocence that adults have long lost.  We read questions such as:

“Why are the grown-ups in charge?”
“How are dreams made?”
“Do aliens exist?”
“Is the human brain the most powerful thing on earth?”
“What is global warming?”
“Why can’t animals talk like us?”
“Why can’t I tickle myself?”
“Why do people have different coloured skin?”
“Do numbers go on forever?”
“What am I made of?”
“Did Alexander the Great like frogs?”
“What would I look like if I didn’t have a skeleton?”
“If the universe started from nothing, how did it become something?”
“Why do we have money?”
“How does my brain control me?”
“What do you do when you can’t think what to draw or paint?”

The eminent people who answer, treat the questions seriously, and with kindness.

For example, we have the philosopher Julian Baggini commencing his answer to “Who is God?” writing: “It’s a good question and the truth is that everybody seems to have an idea of who he is but nobody really knows.” He ends: “So, there’s no simple answer to the question ‘Who is God?’ You will have to work out which answer makes most sense to you. As you do, my personal advice would be this: if anyone tells you they know for sure who God is, be suspicious.”

Claudia Hammond, the psychologist, answers the question “Why does time go slowly when you want it to go fast?” writing: “The problem with time is that it warps and not always in the way you’d like it to. The clock says one thing, but your mind another….The reason time goes slowly, even though you’re willing it to go fast, lies in the way the brain counts time. No one knows exactly how it’s done….”

The evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, begins his answer to “Are we all related?” emphatically stating: “Yes, we are all related.” He then elaborates a broad approach to prove this, and ends by writing: “By the same argument, we are distant cousins not only of all human beings but of all animals and plants. You are a cousin of my dog and of the lettuce you had for lunch, and of the next bird you that you see fly past the window. You and I share ancestors with all of them….”

Photo by Ben Whiteon Unsplash

In “Night”, the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel’s book about being in Nazi concentration camps with his father (who sadly passed on there, along with his mother and sister), we read him write about one of his early Judaic teachers, Moshe –

He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.

 Elie then goes on to tell us that Moshe was fond of saying – “Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him.”

Peace 🙂

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