What If We Valued Questions More Than Answers?

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Jeff Bloom

This morning, during my almost daily visit to the local dog park, I was chatting with a homeless guy and his friend, a previously by-choice-homeless guy, who is a house painter, poet, and actor. We usually get into to some fairly deep philosophical discussions as our dogs play or ignore one another. And, today was no different. When I walked into the dog park, I was greeted with, “Hi, Jeff. How are you doing? I need some answers.” My immediate response was that I had no answers, but tons of questions. Well, that was the beginning of a discussion about questions and answers. Our discussion prompted a day of pondering the ideas of questions and answers….

What would our world be like if we valued questions more than answers?

In many circles, people say that questions are important. They are the basis of the social and natural sciences. However, we only value questions in terms of finding the answers. We want answers… one “right” answer for each question. We want a neatly packaged world with answers to all of our questions. Having questions with no answers can be frightening. What happens when we die? Why do we die? Why are we born? What is life? How did everything begin? How can we feel happy? How can we avoid getting sick? These are some of the more pressing questions, but the list of questions is endless. The sciences, philosophy, and most religions have tried to address many of these questions. Those questions that cannot be answered by science are avoided or dismissed and relegated to philosophers, poets, or religions. But, in all cases, we want to construct answers that present a solidified, predictable, and comfortable view of our lives and our worlds. Unfortunately, “things” beyond simple physical systems (interactions of billiard balls without the element of human psychology, planetary motions, etc.) are not solid, predictable, or particularly comfortable.

Valuing questions within a sense of continuous inquisitiveness and uncertainty is more consistent with the nature of our living world. So, what would it be like if all of us valued such a view, where questions and uncertainty were central to the way we lived and interacted?

Would we become less controlled by our basic fears of uncertainty and death?

Would we thrive on curiosity?

Would we become more open to varying experiences, cultures, and individuals?

Would we appreciate diversity and difference?

Would we appreciate the uncertainty and spontaneity of the biological and social worlds in which we live?

Would we be more respectful of our fellow living organisms?

Would we develop our intellectual and emotional abilities unfettered by our desires to solidify what can’t be solidified?

Would our lives be energized by uncertainty and all of the possibilities that such uncertainty provides?

Would our lives become works of art and poetry?

Would science become a way of understanding the uncertainty and lack of predictability of multiple interacting systems?

What are some questions that can continue to stimulate our continued intrigue with our lives, our relationships, our worlds?


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