Questions

The human mind is amazing.  Think of things you can imagine.  Some are real.  Some are fantastical.  Some are not possible.  Some may be possible.  The range of what we are minds are capable of coming up with is astounding.

From http://www.daviddisalvo.org

Now humans are also curious.  Part of our imagination may be to visualize something and then ask ourselves.  How can I make this dream, this fantasy I have, real?  The fact that we can make any of these dreams real is impressive.  Any inventor though will probably have more failures than successes.

You may be questioning where am I going with this, and you’d be right to question me.  The truth is I don’t exactly know and luckily this is part of the point.

Given what are minds are capable of, and given that only a handful of our dreams ever can become reality, is it possible that we can dream up questions which have no answer?  I can ask a lot of questions that have no answer.  For instance I might ask “When we build a ship capable of traveling across the galaxy how many planets can one visit in a lifetime?”  Of course there are answers that you can give, but how much accuracy or value would such an answer have?  It is first contingent on a device we don’t have, asks us to know the number of planets in the galaxy which is something we don’t know, and we also are uncertain what our lifetimes might be at some future date when this device is available.  Such a question might have value.  If I cared enough about the answer I may devote my life to trying to see out into our galaxy more clearly, or build a faster than light speed spaceship, or perhaps try to increase our life expectancy, so that one day people can see lots of planets potentially.

The question is a loaded one because of all the uncertainties in the question, and it has no precise answer.  There are however grander questions we can ask.  What does God want from us?  There is uncertainty as to God’s existence so the answer becomes difficult.  And even if there was one, most cultures disagree on God’s nature, so trying to determine what God wants becomes rather challenging.

From library.sasaustin.org

But we can get even grander.  What is the meaning of life?   I would respond back with “whose life?” or “how do you define life?”  But let’s go a step further to a related question: Why are we here?  The simplest of all questions.  Not much ambiguity to it all.  Those who might have an answer have no evidence to back it up.  Many would simply say they don’t know.  And answers of course vary from person to person.  Of all the many questions we can ask, perhaps we can answer them all;  partly by answering some smaller questions first before getting to the bigger parent question.  But what if there are some questions like “Why are we here?”  that have no answer?  What if this question is a simply a product of our wonderful minds.  Nevertheless one of our inventions.  We invent machines, concepts, why not questions? And while the question “Why are we here?” seems a natural question to ask,  must every question have an answer?  Maybe our answers are inventions as well. What if the only answer to that question is “We just are”.  That seems quite unsatisfying because “Why” has not been addressed.  Making it not really the answer at all.  Just a truth which we might have to accept.

And if “Why are we here?” really has no answer, can’t existence still be wonderful? Does there have to be some grand plan in order for you to be happy?  Is there no value in a satisfying career, making the world a better place, raising your child to be happy and strong, bringing smiles to the faces of friends and family, giving to those who have less than you?  Maybe it is these smaller questions we should be trying to answer with our lives.  The bigger question has almost no value to the countless millions who live in abject poverty. If you are reading (or writing this blog) you have the privilege in life to ponder this big question more deeply.  Would the answer really change you all that much?  Is the answer preventing you from being a good person?  Do you need an answer to see that love is better than hate?  That peace is better than violence?  That generosity is better than greed?  Would an answer make learning physics, chemistry, or biology meaningless?  Would an answer make creating art, writing, or making music any less enjoyable or meaningful?

The only seems clear is that there are many questions to be asked, many questions that are important, and that we should never stop asking questions. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Questions

  1. I always prefer “what” questions over “why” questions. “Why are we here?” can have no answer and a million different answers. Well, I am here, so “What am I going to do about it?” That isn’t going to keep philosophers employed, but it’s more useful in my opinion.

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    1. I agree…I was just thinking that this morning actually. “What am I going to do about it” has much more value. I guess I was just trying to show my appreciation for our ability to ask such questions, but think it’s also important to remember that maybe there are questions we can’t answer.

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  2. Helen Khan

    I guess there will be some questions we will never be able to answer. I am still asking questions and I think that is good. But like both Chris and Swarn, I agree that we shouldn’t stop with the why. What should we do with the why question that we cannot answer? When we don’t know the answers, are there some questions that are worth exploring until we get an answer that satisfies us?

    Some questions are big enough and important enough to continue to explore until we find an answer that satisfies. Right now we don’t have all the answers as to why Alzheimer’s happens, but does that mean we should not explore for the answer? Maybe that question is important enough to continue searching until the answer is found.

    For some, why does time exist is not an important question, but the purpose of life is an important, all consuming question. So for that person, rather than just asking why, maybe they should say, “what am I going to do about it? I don’t have the answer now, so should I drop it or explore it?”

    I believe we should always have that inquisitive, scientific mind. We need to ask questions; even to yourselves. Self-examination can be a positive growing experience. And without questions about the world we live in, can we really appreciate it? Can we make a difference or fight for a cause?

    More questions.

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    1. I don’t disagree mom. My point in writing this is not to negate the importance of questions, but rather to pose the possibilities that just because we have the ability to come up with a question, doesn’t mean that there is an answer. Or at least one answer that is universally true. Some questions could just be a product of our creative imaginations but be nothing more than that. I think it’s just important to be aware, that just because we can ask the question, doesn’t imply an answer. The other possibility is that we aren’t asking the right question, or that the question itself is full of words that don’t have a clear definition. Like the question about the meaning of life. This would require a clear definition of what life is and what isn’t life, and there is much disagreement about this. Personally I think all these questions are neat to think about. I just think that people sort of assume that just because a question can be asked that somewhere there is an answer. A satisfying answer at that. I don’t know if that is true.

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