It took me many years to start asking this simple question. I’m still learning to appreciate the power of ‘why’. I was a ‘tow-the-line’ kind of kid. I enjoyed making Mommy and Daddy happy, and that meant listening very intently to their wishes and doing my absolute best to abide by their rules. As a young child, this was very easy. I had a one-track mind. All I needed to do was stay on my parent’s good side and life was good; it was fun.
If I behaved, I was given the things I asked for: an assortment of gifts at Christmas time, brand new sports equipment every year, the latest and greatest video game console, summer trips to the water park, you name it. If I had no other talents as a young boy, I was very good at making my parents happy, at least most of the time.
In contrast, we can examine my younger brother. Instinctively or intuitively, he learned the power of ‘why’ much earlier than myself. He was more curious about the point behind the things my parents asked him to do, rather than following with blind faith, which was, for a long time, his older brother’s path.
As you might imagine, my parents often had difficulty dealing with this approach. They found it much easier to be listened to and obeyed without question. The world is large and incredibly complicated. It’s not always easy to explain the rationale for why you’re asking a four-year old child to do something. But this is the challenge with which they were confronted. I’m not sure, to this day, if either of them truly realizes this important distinction between their two children. It is, honestly, something that came to me very recently.
The Power of Why
As I got older, and began to learn more about the world, the ‘why’ of things began to pop into my mind with more and more frequency. “Why is it so important that I make my bed every single morning when I’m going to climb back in later this evening?” “Why do I have to mow the lawn every other week when I’d rather see it grow long and spill over into the native meadow behind our house?” “Why does my brother so often conflict with my parents?” “Why does my father hate vegetables so much?”
“Why is my mom over there vacuuming the walls?” “Why do we enjoy the benefits of a 30’ RV, three bedroom house, and ski boat when so many people in the world struggle to find food on a daily basis?” “Why does my mother continue to work at a job that doesn’t seem to make her happy?” “Why are my parents forcing my brother to attend a four-year university when it’s clearly not what he wants?”
The list goes on and on. But until recently, I was apparently content not knowing the answers to these important questions. My brother, on the other hand, has seemingly always wanted to know why. He has always been a challenge for my parents, and I’m finding this to be one of the chief reasons for that. He is a much more intelligent thinker than my parents typically give him credit for, and that thought makes me sad. But change is inevitable, and I hope for them to come around.
Learning vs. Studying
My father seems to be of the impression that I will have infinitely more advantages in life because of my formal education. But there are many different forms of intelligence. My affinity for seeking knowledge in books can be an attribute, but it can also be a detriment. Hands-on learning is just as important as studying the pages of a book, if not more so. My brother has this ability much more innately rooted in his soul than I do in mine.
This is one of the primary reasons why I love him. Despite the difference in our ‘formal educations’, he will always be able to make me feel incredibly stupid. He has the ability to enter a situation in which I’m struggling, especially if it pertains to any sort of mechanics, and give me an answer, or a more efficient way of completing the task.
He is a great example of the power of ‘why’. He has never been afraid to ask it, and he isn’t afraid of doing the work required to find the answer he seeks. In my mind, we cannot have enough people in the world that are willing to ask ‘why’, and who are willing to work hard to find the answer to those queries. Too many seem content with the status quo, despite its’ obvious flaws.
Asking why helps us better understand the world, and the complex society, in which we live. Through this heightened understanding, we may find the answers that help us reduce this complexity and create a better world, not only for ourselves, but also for our children, their children, and for all future generations of humans that will inhabit this remarkable planet.
For heaven’s sake people, don’t be afraid to ask, ‘Why?’