The question ‘Why?’ is dying in our culture. We live in a time where too much information bombards us too quickly from too many sources, and where, because of our diversions and games and distractions, we have less time to process this information fully. We go for the most available information, the easiest diversion; or worse, the less-than-known food or drink or activity, thinking we’ve ‘found’ something. And so YOLO has become a mantra for our lives, and even if we become outraged or scared by the fresh hot facts (not yet cooled into truth), we knew it all along, doubting and circling ever deeper into our selves and our distractions. We are becoming drones, willfully, and at a quicker pace and a greater number every day. The question ‘Why?’–not just asked of the world around us but, more importantly, of ourselves and our own actions–is becoming not just an inconvenience, it’s becoming obsolete.
Just this morning, I was watching the rest of the documentary, ‘Juro Dreams of Sushi‘, when, in an interview, Juro pointed to his nose. ‘What does that mean?’ I thought. ‘Why does he do that? Is it Japanese?’ So I looked it up. It took about two minutes. I visited three websites to verify the answer, which was this–in Japan, it is their way of referring to ‘I’. That’s it. Nothing important. I don’t know what it symbolized or why it was different than my own American way of gesturing, but I knew I could delve further if I wanted to. For the time being, my curiosity was sated. Now, could I have opted out? Yes. Did it change anything in my understanding of the film and its character? No, but my hunch was right, as I assume was right for many Americans having watched the film over the years who were not familiar with Japanese gestures. The point to this is that I asked the question and, more importantly, I was curious enough to go looking for the answer. Asking questions enriches your life, rounds you out, and keeps your mind open to the wonders of forces and worlds beyond our own comprehension. This is an artistic function of asking questions, in that we are taking what we experience and make it our own through pondering and wondering. But as the information changes so rapidly around us, as technology is making it possible to bombard our senses with faster and faster facts and half-facts and quasi-facts and outright lies, what we experience through our five senses and what we think about (or not think about) needs to be brought into question. What we need to start thinking about and practicing more seriously is something much more basic and vital to our very survival. Questions like, ‘What is this?’, ‘What is happening here?’, ‘Is this real?’, ‘Why is this here?’, and ‘How does this affect me?’ are some simple questions that we don’t ask ourselves enough of today because we didn’t need to.
Decades ago, the government was trusted, your country was good and free in the way that it was exempt from the tyranny and evil that other countries displayed, your news was honest, your Hollywood stars were gentlemen and ladies, your neighbors were just like you, and your own life was good and satisfying. None of this was true, of course, but our perceptions of what these people, institutions, and ideas were for us and why we believed in them carved out who we were as citizens and people. We didn’t question our milk, we didn’t question credit cards, or anything else that came down the pike because we believed in these things without asking simple questions. Our society made it seem like we were better off. Now we rally and shout and strike against the evil of companies and institutions and figures, but this is only a part of it. We need to ask Why of everything that we know to ground these rallies and cries and strikes, and we must question more basic things more deeply. We must question the beginnings of things, the means, and the ends. We must be skeptical, not cynical. Everything–everything that touches our senses, everything we think of, and everything we say must be questioned. Our entire living life, from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, is being carved out by the hundreds of decisions we make every day from the pillars of a thousand thoughts influenced from the world around us. But only influenced, since, finally, we and we alone make the final decision to enact from those influences.
When we give up asking questions or when we think, either from pomposity or stubbornness, that we don’t have to ask questions, we are giving up our right to be free. The mere existence of a realm of common inquiry is a luxury–not only a luxury of a free, democratic citizenry but also a luxury of what it is to be an evolved human being. Playing games, typing out statuses, texting GIFs, reading gossip, surfing the Internet, listening to music, watching movies and films, flirting and fucking and making love and having sex and creating children and families, and eating and drinking and sleeping and shitting–is there any activity I missed from this monkeys’ list? Evolution begins when you begin asking questions. It’s the beginning of your own true self and its acceptance of yourself (with hopes) into that exclusive club–mature, rational, intelligent, free-thinking, and inquiring human beings. All else are sleepwalkers, lower than even monkeys, who, because of their own physical and mental incapabilities, cannot do better, whereas we (who possess the same genes, traits, passions, tendencies, and instincts) are made worse for wasting the gifts of inquiry and reflection.
There are those who feel that they are too tired or too busy to ask questions, of any kind, big or small. To those I ask only one question–do you think, dear brother and sister, that it is THEY who are making you too tired or too busy, or too distracted or too worried or too happy, to ask the pertinent and responsible questions that make you the person you are and ever will be? Because whether you do or do not ask questions, I can tell you this–the responsibility of your actions will return to you; and inevitably when the future sons and daughters ask you what happened, THEY will be an adequate scapegoat for only so long before you realize that all along you were a free-thinking adult (or at least played at being one) who could make your own decisions. All along you had the power and simply did not exercise it.
I am not perfect. I get fucked sometimes by the powers around me just as you do. But I’m getting better at resisting their soft and seducing kisses–which wake me up every morning and put me to bed every night–knowing that, like all people and things who seduce, they whisper promises to me for their own gain and not for mine.
So. What do you think?