In Praise of Questions

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Answers are dead things.

They look like decaying corpses, covered in cobwebs; accruing dusty and decay; desiccation and destruction.

And, like everything else in life, we seek them mercilessly.

Being raised Jewish, I was taught that you should always answer a question with another question. It keeps it alive. It complicates, confuses. It creates commonality in the field of ambiguity. When we’re insecure, we use answers to kill the monsters in our life.

Or, at least, that’s what I’ve found, lately.

I used to spend my time answering questions. Every day I answer questions from all manner of sources. Because I like my co-workers (and I like money) I give straight answers with straight reasons.

But there’s something beautiful about a question.

When you have a good question, it plants itself at the root of your skull, niggling like a cell-divided into a zygotic progression. First the question: What do I do with this? How do I do that? What is the best way to approach that feels like this enormous expanse. An abyss as black and singular as the gravity wells that lead to other universes.

Then. A spark

Ex Nihilo, in the expanse of your limitless brain, the question lights a spark. A kindling takes. You see the slow spread of fire-y realization walk and dance trails to the end of the stick like a fuse, a wick, ready to spread. The question gives birth to more questions. It multiplies exponentially.

Suddenly, one of the new questions answers one of the old ones. In fact, that light we call reason that was hanging dim suddenly shines at a new angle. The shadows have completely changed. Suddenly, the reaction isn’t a reaction, but a spontaneity. A suggestion that is.

The chain is helical and continuous and beautiful. And then there is a garden of questions, flowering, spreading.

You can walk in it, in the light. It’s almost overwhelming, the greens and greys and reds. The bright array like crystals that suggest infinite worlds.

What would happen if I did this? How does this work? Why?

The general fails to Patrick McGoohan’s ontology because Computer’s are logical. They don’t grow, they don’t mutate. They don’t subsume the question and make it their being. They have to get from Point A to Point B, and questions don’t get you there: Logic does.

But the illogic of situations is so lovely.

I love creating a world of questions. One where it’s like spinning light that shines brighter than the stars. Questions like Red Dwarfs, and Quasars, shining a light on my deepest impulses and desires. I like the feeling of walking along heat-filled ambiguities that have all the power of love, because I don’t know what they are.

Questions expand and expand and expand. They take on the quality of horror movie monsters, and magical creatures. They feel like bowing prostrate to god. They are a pursuit unto themselves.

And yet, we are doggedly married to those cold, dead things we call answers.

Causality is strict, but the human mind is putty. It’s moldable and malleable and all the other things in between. Point A molds into Point B. And don’t get me wrong, when you’re not a friend with questions, they’re scary. They poke holes. When they don’t have answers they can overwhelm.

Can I do this? Is this right? Am I good enough?

Well, this is where Answer’s become tricky. Because you can always say “No, I can’t” or “No, It isn’t” or “No, I’m not”.

And depending on who you are, that’s good: you decide to get better, you decide to not do something morally reprehensible; you decide that you are good enough.

But it’s just as easy, or even easier to answer those poorly, and decide you aren’t good enough.

You then get a series of answers that are equal untruths. Their causes too linear, their motivations to self-centered. The world becomes a self-absorbed place when you try to bring yourself down.

It’s hard to be aware of just how selfish you are when you’re a pessimist. I’m speaking from personal experience.

When I was young I needed answers, more than I needed questions. I didn’t know enough. Often, the answers left me cold. Those great big mysteries, the vastness of infinity suddenly took on a definitive shape. A sorrowful grandeur was missing.

But the answers I gave myself were just as wrong as the actual ones. They were too about me. They gave too much power to others. I would focus on how people were out to get me. I would get sad at the feeling I was incapable of being loved. The warm touch of another person’s hand was something which my unworthy skin could not assay.

My stretch-marks were not the result of medications playing rough-shod with my metabolism and eating habits. They were a symbol of my own lacking will-power. My ADD needed to be curbed. I needed to live on a schedule. I couldn’t let others see me with my shirt off, literally, or otherwise. I couldn’t let anyone believe I was actually worthy of love.

I worked hard at being a paradox. Someone desperate for affection, but doing everything in my power to push it away. Not answering people when I needed to. Clinginess, fifteen texts a day and all that insecurity. The feeling that being a good person was just beyond me, and desperately trying to prove myself wrong, but never getting any closer.

Then, a little while back, I started asking questions.

Can I do this?

Then, I didn’t answer that question.

I just did it.

And something happened.

It got better.

I let myself suffer, and let the questions expand. I stopped planning down to the micro-second every part of tomorrow. My plans fell through regularly. Instead, I asked the questions: can I do it?

And then I left it at that.

Tomorrow doesn’t exist: it hasn’t happened yet. It’s one great big question mark. It is the promise of life.

It makes those cold, dead answers, seem so silly, in the long run.

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