Why ask why?

Why ask why?

We are helped to go deep within and discover our true selves.

Posing this question is certainly not easy, for right from childhood we are trained to avoid using it. Parents demand obedience and, as many children will testify, ‘whys’ are silenced with the words, ‘Because I say so.’ In school, one is expected to find answers and not ask questions. Questions test the teacher’s patience and are considered a waste of precious time. Pupils who frequently ask questions are labeled undisciplined and insolent. Matters remain much the same as the years pass. The powers-that-be and society at large frown on those who ask questions. They much prefer the conformists who let the wheel of life run on predictable lines. Clearly there is popular resistance to asking, ‘why?’ Then why ask ‘why?’

The reasons are many. Some, like the following, are more important than the others. Leonardo da Vinci is renowned as an artist the world over. A prodigiously gifted man, he was besides a master in fields as diverse as music, science, architecture and philosophy. One of the statements he made reveals the secret of his success. He says, ‘Why do shells exist on the top of mountains along with imprints of plants usually found in the sea? Why does thunder last longer than that which causes it? Thoughts like these engaged my mind throughout my life.’ This is conclusive proof that having a ‘why’-- a strong ‘why’-- is highly productive.

We like to believe that we choose what we want to do. In other words, we assume that our behaviour is a result of free choice. Often though, as psychologists have pointed out, beneath our words and actions lie repression and fears of various kinds. For example, the authoritarian behaves as he does because he himself has been a victim of an authoritarian. Subjected to strict discipline, he was not given explanations nor allowed to ask, ‘why?’ A pattern of behaviour which expects implicit obedience gets established. It now makes the person demanding, unpopular and unsuccessful. The situation can be remedied only if he asks himself ‘why?’

Asking ‘why?’ is critical to planning and decision making. Lastly, spiritual progress demands that we ask ourselves ‘why?’ Why are we born? Why do the innocent suffer? Why believe in a power that is benign? These are questions that confront every one of us sooner or later. Admittedly the answers are neither exhaustive nor final. But the exercise makes better individuals of us—more understanding, more sympathetic and more compassionate. There is sense as well as sensibility in asking ‘why?’

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