Why do you think we ask why?
I posed that question to myself and fellow journal keepers in writing class this week. We’ve been making queries and seeking answers through the tip of our pens and random magazine images.
We’ve gleaned insight and shared wisdom by writing and talking and pondering questions together.
As the others in class write quietly, I join them in my own journal.
Here are my musings from yesterday:
Why do we ask why? Because we’re curious, we want to know more, to understand and to be understood, for comfort, for courage, for confidence? How to get it “right” or correct?
I ask why when I don’t understand. Why is not doubt–it’s curiosity; it’s cause and effect. A curious child asks why out of a need for knowledge and understanding. I don’t think it occurs to them that they might be questioning some authority–it’s just a simple why, a inquiry of how come such and such occurs this way or that way. But why do they keep asking why after someone explains–are they not satisfied with the answer? A teenager seemingly asks why out of some inner angst–but what if, they are just trying out their voice, wanting to be heard. Working out their own identity, purpose and reason for being.
As an adult, my whys have been more about wanting closure, to know why something happened to me or to someone else, questions for the Creator of the Universe. I want explanations. I need some defense or answer to give myself or another who is confused, baffled, hurting and broken. I demand an answer, but then I wonder will I be satisfied with such an answer. Maybe expressing why is more of a lament. A means to say out loud that I am confused, frustrated or even just curious. To use why as a lament helps me to grieve and to process unwelcome and unwieldly emotions and circumstances.
It’s okay if I don’t get a solid answer to why. It’s okay to not know. We can ask why as a way to explore and discover, to express our emotions, even to test the validity or consistency of a thing, an idea or even another person’s actions toward us. We may not always be right. We might misconstrue motives or intent. We might never get an answer. But this doesn’t have to be as infuriating, as it might have been when the only answer from a parent was “because I said so!” Now, we can voice our whys and sit with the silences, the suppositions and the comfort of not needing to know it all.
After our writing time, I invited the class to respond to one of the following activities:
- Imagine a child asking why. Write down questions they might ask.
- Imagine a teenager asking why. Write out their questions.
- Imagine an adult asking why. Compose their questions.
- Create a magazine collage to answer your why questions.
- Write a spine poem to answer one of your why questions.
- Make a mind map of your why question to brainstorm answers and insights.
One person started with why in a circle and then branched out with the questions who, what, where, when, and how did she ask why, then added another layer to each of those circles with how did a child, teenager or adult ask why. It was fun witnessing her joy, as she mapped out what was going on in her mind.
For the spine poem, I used the word “why” and this popped into my head:
Next with some trepidation, not sure if it would work, I chose to thumb through some phrases and images from magazines that I had randomly cut out. I was surprised by how the words and images helped me to express my “answers” to why, and then the images also caused me to ask why again. Why a nest? Why would a teenager think this collage was boring? Why don’t butterflies build nests? But the one phrase that summarized my musings the most was: “The answer to our deepest needs.” That phrase confirmed my idea that asking why in and of itself might just be one of our deepest needs.
For what reasons do you ask why?
Even the psalmists asks why:
I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? (Psalm 8:3-4 The Message)
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. (Psalm 42:5 The Message)