QUESTIONS

DEFINITION

Questions

  • Uncertainty about the truth or factuality of existence of something
  • A sentence of inquiry that asks for a reply

Don’t question me, just do as I say!


How many of us heard that statement when we were growing up? I certainly did on countless occasions. Parents see it as their duty to pass information to their children, and for that information to be taken as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Parents and teachers do not expect to be questioned by children.

“Children should be seen and not heard” was a popular phrase from victorian times. You would think we’d have moved on by now from that antiquated approach, but we haven’t.

Adults are the fountain of knowledge and experience (as they see it), and by being that bit older, have earned the divine right to always be right. Children being children, accept what their parent or teacher is telling them – whether they actually believe it or whether they just fear to question them – in case they are shouted at or punished. But as we all know, adults can be wrong! Amazing, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t have believed it until I became a fully fledged adult (at the age of 38), and realised I didn’t know anything at all. I was a beginner at this game called life. I had so many questions, and so few answers, and the more time I spent with my ageing parents the more I realised that, actually, they were beginners too, and they were in their seventies!

Why then did they stop me asking questions when I was young?
“Why is the sky blue, dad?”
“It just is, son.”

This is how this book came about.
I didn’t plan to write a book, I just started to inquire into everything, and I realised that not only did I not have the answers, neither did anyone else. I read book upon book, seeking an answer, and I realised that actually what was missing was the right questions. The main question in my mind was, are there some things that are above questioning, some things which are absolute truths? I pondered this for a long time.

Stop for a moment and mull this over in your own mind. What could be taken as unquestionable? What is fact?

“On reflection,” I thought, “I know, the earth is round. Scientists have proved it, I have seen the pictures from space, and the only reason people thought it was flat, is that they had no way of going up into the atmosphere,” but then I stopped.

How many scientific discoveries have been made and then a century or two later, utterly disproved?

Could the earth being round be disproved by some scientist who asked the question another way? It has happened in the past, and it could happen again.

Obviously there are simple things which help us live our life more safely, like sticking to driving on one side of the road. You can question it all you like, but the fact remains that it is a mere safety device to stop us all from crashing in to each other! So although questions are vital, sometimes we have to accept things are the way they are for a reason, or do we? Should we question everything in the world or just the important things? But then again, who decides what is important? Maybe if you question everything you will eventually go mad. Be on the safe side, save your sanity, don’t ask anything!

Children are great questioners.
“Mum? Mum? MUM! Why is the…”
“Because I say it is, all right? Now leave me alone!”

As adults, we may find children’s questions cute or even endearing, but we don’t really take them seriously, do we? I remember watching a tv program on the bbc, where some schoolchildren were interviewing the prime minister of britain. They were asking him serious questions, and although he was answering them, there was a certain dismissiveness of the children. It was almost as if he felt at ease answering questions on the war in the middle east, questions that only days earlier were being asked by a “serious” adult journalist. He certainly seemed to be less worried about the interview because it was with children. Condescending, was one thought I had when I watched it, and I felt myself getting angry about the whole thing!

Why do adults palm off (sell as genuine, sell with the intention to deceive) children with disinterest or show at the very most, a feigned interest in what they are asking? Is this unfair? Do adults (a fully developed person from maturity onward) treat young questioners seriously? Are the questions children ask, naive and stupid, or are we too busy just living life to be bothered with any more questions? We’re tired. We work hard, we have to provide, pay the mortgage, pay the bills, buy the children’s clothes.

That’s real life, not asking silly questions. When they grow up, they’ll see. And indeed they do, as most children pass into adulthood having passed or failed their exams, ready to ask the ultimate questions…
“How much do I get a week?” “What are the hours?” And so the questions end, and real life begins. Forty five years of work ahead.

The time for frivolity is over. You must earn a living. You must go to work every day to pay your bills, and eventually you will have children, and you have to support them.

Pretty soon, the inquisitiveness you had as a youngster is snuffed out by the need to earn money. Look how far asking those silly questions got you. You soon forget that you ever had an inquiring mind. You learn that acceptance is the only way forward. Especially if you want a simple life.

The inquiring mind
searching for truth

As I have found out in recent years, questions cause pain – by questioning yourself, and all the world around you. Why am I like this, why do I behave like that? Why are people so angry? Why does everyone fight each other? Why do we destroy so much? Why does no one question anything!

If you are anything like me, once you open your mind, and starting asking difficult questions, you will find you can’t stop. I question everything!

Not out loud all the time of course, otherwise I would drive everybody mad; but it is driving me mad, asking difficult questions to which there seem to be no answers. Such as, why am I bothering to ask all these difficult questions when no one else seems to care? What is the point of trying to help the world when everyone else seems quite happy and don’t want to be helped? Why am I a vegetarian, when all I get is rude comments and people telling me the same thing over and over?

“Man is a meat eater, he has always been a meat eater, and always will be a meat eater.” Why am I putting myself through this, when I could have such a simple life?

Even as I write this now I am questioning myself. I am questioning my motives for doing this. I am questioning myself whether I will be happy when it is finished – and indeed what will I do? You see, although I am committed to world peace, compassion, and love for all creatures on the planet, I wonder how committed I really am. Let me tell you a short story.

I can’t remember if I was much of a questioner when I was young, or throughout my schooling, but as I got older, and started to work, I did start to question more. Not questions like “what is the nature of reality?” but rather more simple questions like “why do we have to do it this way, isn’t there a better way we can do it?” more often than not, directed at my boss. This caused great conflict in the work place for me, as questioning your “superior’s” decisions isn’t recommended if you want to have a successful career. So I questioned the way we were doing things more quietly, but that just led to more friction, because I would go ahead and do things a different way.

“Troublemaker” was the word on the lips of most of my managers.

“Troublemaker!” I couldn’t believe it, all I wanted to do was help improve things. But you see they didn’t want me to question things, or help to improve things, because these were their ideas I was challenging. They didn’t want me to question them, because that may prove them wrong, even though that was the last thing I wanted to do. I could see a better way, so I did it. This inevitably got me fired from more jobs than I care to mention.

I found that the only way for me to work was independently as an information technology consultant where I could question to my heart’s content and people would pay me to do it! At last I had found an area where I could use my inquiring mind and not have it crushed under the weight of conformity and acceptance. Admittedly it was in business, and not securing world peace but that was what I knew about, and back then, I wasn’t interested in world peace; just plenty of money at the end of the week, so I could enjoy the things I liked doing.

I suppose that questioning the nature of life was a natural extension to my years of questioning in computing.

You may find that strange to hear, but as soon as I left my job I went travelling to australia (two days later). Nothing had changed in my mind, but now there were no managers to question, no systems to question, there were only people and life – so question I did! Why are people like this, why is nature like that? And here I am writing it all down for you eight years later. Still questioning.

So what have I learned? Have all my questions been answered? No. But the main thing is, I am still interested enough to be inquisitive. But it’s becoming more difficult for me now, as the more I question, the more upset I get at other peoples thoughtless actions. This time it’s not about the change to a procedure or a work flow document, this time it’s about peoples lives, peoples hopes, dreams and disappointments. This time it is about defenceless children and brutal parents.

Suddenly my inquisitiveness has gone too far. This time I have questioned too much. Maybe with hindsight I should have just left it, it would have been a lot easier! Do you follow what I’m saying? Years before I had questioned interesting, but ultimately insignificant topics and events, but now I am questioning our very existence; and it hurts. It hurts because now I care. Now I am stuck, to be blunt with you. I am stuck because I can’t get out of feeling this way – this need to interrogate life, to seek truth.

I am not religious, and I am not trying to get to heaven or nirvana, I am just trying to understand why we, as the most intelligent species on the planet, continue on a minute-by-minute basis, to destroy, not only each other, but the planet we share. Why we become addicted to pleasure, and why we seek this entity called god above all else in the world?

I have posed a thousand questions to myself, and I have posed a thousand questions to you, but in the end, do either of us care enough to answer them?

I ask myself what it would take to make me go back to my old life; my comfortable flat, my nice four wheel drive jeep, my girlfriends with nice make-up and jewellery, my well paid exciting job, my evenings out at pubs and restaurants (not worrying about whether they have vegetarian options), nice holidays, and fun times? I have to be honest with you, sometimes I don’t think it would take very much. Not because of a lack of commitment to peace and compassion, but because I wonder why I should care!

What I mean is, why bother putting yourself through all of these changes, if no one else gives a damn. They are busy just enjoying their lives, earning money, they don’t look like they have a care in the world. “These people may look happy, but deep down they are deeply unhappy, ” say the spiritual lot. Yeah? Well maybe they are superficially happy, but as long as that superficial happiness lasts about seventy years, they’ll have a pretty good time.

On the other hand, I wonder what the world would be like if we all could live happily together?

I come from a stable, wealthy country, so whether people are killing each other in wars or not doesn’t really concern me. I come from a wealthy southern town where work is plentiful and the pay excellent. By achieving social equality for all, and removing poverty across the “third world” what would that mean to me? What benefit would that bring me? If all the animals that are killed and eaten are no longer killed and eaten, what difference does it make to me? None. I am already a vegetarian.

Maybe it would boost my ego and make me feel good about having done something “worthwhile” and “positive” for the world, but my ego is only good for another forty years or so. Then, like me, it will disappear.

Can anyone tell me if there is any benefit in writing this book? Will anyone read it? Is this just my vanity at wanting to achieve fame by getting a book published. Do I just want to impress people and have people say “Oh look, that’s alan orr, he wrote that book; you know, the one that helped people change and ultimately saved the world!”

Maybe I want to impress you with my range of knowledge about diverse subjects. Maybe I really do care. But how will you know? You see the dilemma we put ourselves in when we start to ask questions?

So whatever my ambivalent feelings are towards the path I have chosen, whether I want to care, or choose not to give a damn, the fact remains that I have questioned; and by that very fact, I have closed off the path I came from. There is no going back.

Once the mind starts to open, and becomes an inquiring mind, life can never be the same for you again. Sure, you may irritate a few people, you may anger others, and you may wish you had never bothered to ask, but that is one beautiful thing about being human, the ability to question “why?” “Why am I here? Who am I, Where are we?”

Whilst we continue to inquire we shall progress, no matter how slowly, and things will improve.

People will become more compassionate towards all creatures. People will show more love to each other. People will empathise with one another.
Never stop questioning. No matter how many people tell you the “answer,” there is no one answer.

But I think this whole divide between child and adult needs to be redrawn, for I know many more intelligent children than I do adults! Innocence and naivety one might call it, but the more we stop children inquiring about everything, the more adults we will have who just accept that things are as they are.

Children are only legally children between zero and seventeen (in most countries), but on their eighteenth birthday, they become an adult. They have responsibilities. They can drink, smoke, vote, go to war, get married. Now they are an adult, people will listen to them. Yet just the day before, they were a child that everyone ignored. “Dad…why does…?”

Let your children ask questions, however many they want, do not just palm them off. They are inquiring into life, do not shut them out just because you are tired, and have had to work hard. While you’re at it, maybe ask a few questions yourselves.

Never stop questioning. Ever


by alan macmillan orr

´The Natural Mind ‘ Waking Up´

2009

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