July 25, 2011

Two Questions and a Statement

When I was in sixth grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Wilson.  Actually, it was one of those strange classroom situations where two teachers shared the same grade for the school, and would swap students for certain subjects.  So, I had both Mrs. Walker and Mr. Wilson.  Mrs. Walker was a rather tall, thin woman whom I enjoyed a great deal.  Mr. Wilson, who happened to be rather short and stout, I liked, as well; however I was to later find out that he didn't care for me quite so much.

Why didn't Mr. Wilson care for me, you ask?  Well, apparently, I asked too many questions.  

You would think a teacher would be welcoming of questions, but not Mr. Wilson.  As the story goes, I was under his tutelage for science as part of this class-swapping business.  I very much liked science and yes, you guessed it, asked quite a few questions.  Too many questions, at least in his estimation.  He actually called a meeting with my parents to discuss my over-abundant questioning.  I was unaware of this meeting, and only discovered it later as an adult.  He had asked my parents to talk to me and encourage me to stop asking so many questions.  My parents were appropriately outraged and flat-out refused; they quickly figured out that I was asking questions for which Mr. Wilson didn't have answers.  (It is my personal opinion that mainstreaming so-called 'gifted' children may not be the best choice, for teachers or students...but, what do I know?)

Poor Mr. Wilson.

I still ask questions.  As I have matured, however, it has been distilled into only two questions.  Perhaps it is because I eventually realized that overwhelming others with my plethora of questions was just not profitable.  Or maybe it was because I sensed that my questioning made others feel uncomfortable.  My distilled-down questions are simple, really, and if I get answers, they are invaluable.  I find that these two questions cut to the heart of issues faster than more verbose inquiries.


This is the analytical question.  It cuts through the details and gets to the motivation.  I have long said that to understand the actions of others one has to find the motivation behind the behavior.  Long past 'why is the sky blue' type of rhetorical questions, my question asks why things happen the way they do, why people act in certain ways.  Sometimes cynical, oftentimes sarcastic and usually just plain curious, the why question rarely gets a satisfactory, all-encompassing answer, but it can most certainly be informative.  The answers to why questions can give the puzzle pieces we need to see the big picture, but it is the next question that provides the order in which the information gets arranged.

I catch myself asking this question more times than I would like to admit.  When we know the why, then we can work to understand what that means in relation to the next action, reaction or plan of action.  Likewise, platitudes, quips and statements that are so common that we don't even think through their origin or meanings anymore are fair game to being questioned in this manner.  I ask this question in religious context frequently, but always in the same tone that begs the speaker to go deeper, think longer, define more clearly.  Define it for not only me, but for themselves, as well.  Frequently, I immediately follow this question with what does that look like? meaning what does that look like practically or how does that play out in reality.  For example, what does "growing in grace" really mean?  What does that look like?  Alright, so some smarty-pants is gonna have an answer for me, but you get the idea.  Definitions and being clear on what we say, what we think and what we believe is always worthy of further pondering and questioning.


And, this couldn't be more true...for me.  It is all about definitions, as you probably know if you have been reading my ruminations for any length of time.  Defining community, relationships, beliefs, and abstract concepts, such as love and forgiveness, helps me put perspective and parameters around difficult ideas that we so easily take for granted.  Like the definition of gossip.  Or how about character?  And, what exactly is wisdom?  Definitions put order into a world of nebulous, oft-misinterpreted doctrines, thought patterns or traditions.  For me, when things are defined, it gives me a stronger chance of actually choosing right over wrong, truth over falsehood, good over evil.  It is when we aren't sure of the definitions that things can get a little fuzzy, even out of control.

At least, that has been my experience.
I wonder if Mr. Wilson would agree with me.

4 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

I certainly agree with you! I'm so much more clear on what I believe and why when I spew out those cliches and we tear into them in depth. I love those kind of discussions - personally, I think Mr. Wilson was in the wrong profession... just sayin'.

Mama Cache said...

Ask away, my friend. Questions are the mark of a thinking person. Good questions are the mark of a good thinker.

I'm thinkin' Mr. Wilson wasn't much of a thinker, himself.

I wonder if he reads blogs...

Sue KuKu said...

I had a business professor in college who didn't want us to do what we did: show up for his class in the morning, sit like lumps on a log, and wait for him to spoon feed us what was going to be on a test. He WANTED us to ask questions, think and engage.

He showed us once how the more questions we asked, the lower cost per question as per our tuition (very business oriented, sunk costs, etc.)

He was very different from most of the university professors. And Mr. Wilson was very different from my grade school teachers who expected us to ask questions. Poor Mr. Wilson.

I had to take Confirmation classes for three years growing up as a Lutheran. Nobody wanted to be there, everyone wanted to look cool. I was actually interested in what we were discussing and reading from my Bible, but I tried to "sit" on myself and hang back, not respond to all the questions and volunteer to read from my Bible.

When I was older, I heard from a couple of adults that they remembered me as always participating and engaged in the subjects.

You just can't deny your true nature. And asking questions, my friend, is yours!

Thank you for your words.

Lamar said...

Kindred-spirit, indeed! Your words here today hearten me beyond what you could know, my friend. Sometimes I wonder if questions are what keep me going. "Question everything" is a motto oft ascribed to me by others. I tend to agree. I've even been known to ask questions of my questions. "Further up and further in"... yes, please. A thousand times yes...