value in the asking

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I believe there is value in asking questions.

I believe there is value in asking questions even if you never find the answer.

Asking questions is how we begin to move from ignorance to understanding.

Not having an answer isn’t a good enough reason to abandon the questions altogether.

There is value in pursuing something even if you never actually come to some sort of definitive conclusion. You could spend your life learning and searching and chasing after an answer to a question and never end up finding the answer in your lifetime. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there will never be an answer just that you weren’t able to find it. I am taking a historiography class right now and one thing that I have picked up on is that many, many historians never finished their work. Either someone after them had to continue it if they felt it was valuable and worthwhile, or it was abandoned and forgotten. Does that uncompleted work have no value because it wasn’t finished? Did the questions they asked suddenly become unimportant because they didn’t come up with an answer? I think not.

I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I have a very difficult time with logical/critical thinking. I am not sure why that is. I assume this is something that you have to learn to do. Maybe I never really learned. On some of the blogs I read I have come across comenters pointing out the logical fallacies in another person’s argument. And I have to tell you, I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. It kind of pisses me off that I can’t seem to grasp it. I have read definitions of logical fallacies 500,000 times and I still don’t feel as if I understand. I start to think maybe I understand and then I look at an argument and it all falls away and I have no idea how to discern if someone is committing a logical fallacy or not. Sometimes it makes my head hurt and I cry because I have to read something over and over and over and over and over and over again to get even a basic understanding of the concept.

I am going to be honest again and tell you that I have always hated asking questions. For some reason or another I have always felt that if I did not comprehend some knowledge that I was given from the beginning, that I was never going to comprehend it. It felt like an embarrassment when people around me were nodding their heads and giving their opinions because they understood so easily. This is one reason I have never really involved myself in debates and arguments. They terrify me. I feel as if it takes me hours, weeks, even months longer than the average person to think through something and actually understand it well enough to be able to participate in a conversation about it. There have been many times where I felt I wanted to say something, but didn’t really have something to say. Then weeks later I would be thinking about it and it would suddenly come to me what I would have liked to have said.

Another thing happened with the class I am currently taking. The basis of what the class is about and what type of writing the final project is alluded me. I literally could not understand what on earth a historiographical essay is. After asking lots and lots and lots of questions and getting feedback from my professor on the project proposal and rough draft, I think I finally understand what it is. But that frustrates me too. The class is basically over now. Why did it take so long? It’s like my brain is fighting against me to comprehend the concept of historiography. We’ve been discussing it a lot in my class, and I have to agree that history in and of itself does not have value if we don’t dig deeper and ask questions. Who did what and when? Yes. Why did they do it? So much more interesting. Having knowledge of history without asking why things happened as they did seems like a vain pursuit.

It frustrates me to no end when I see people telling other people that there is no point in asking certain questions or bringing light to a problem unless you have an adequate answer or solution to the problem. Or claiming that certain questions must have an answer. That they cannot be left unanswered. The things we know today were not known hundreds of years ago but that didn’t stop people from asking questions and pushing against whatever the popular opinion was to discover things they wanted to know. Just because life isn’t fair doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still treat people fairly.

In the circles I grew up in, asking questions was not encouraged and was often discouraged. My parents didn’t really ask us questions besides “who did such-and-such” so they could determine who was getting how many spankings. That’s still something that’s really hard for me to deal with. If my parents had been willing to listen and/or ask questions, they would have done a better job raising us. I so desperately wanted to ask questions and have questions asked of me concerning college and a career and life after living at home. But it never happened. And I am mostly floundering.

And I really hate that phrase that parents say to their kids when their kids ask why, “Because I said so.” I’m sorry but no. A child learns about himself and the world by asking questions. Asking questions is not being disrespectful or “talking back” or rebellious. It means they want more information. Or it means they want to know why you just told them to do or not do something. Saying “because I said so” is hurtful and dismissive and basically tells your child that you don’t care about them actually understanding. You just want them to obey. I do not see inherent value in obedience, but that is a topic for another time.

Asking questions is what starts things. Speaking up about something and asking questions is how you can begin to create change. Even without an answer or a solution, asking the questions brings attention to the problem. It gets people thinking. Asking questions invites people to consider why they say anything that they say. Asking questions is a worthwhile endeavor because it means you care.

Awakening

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I was reading for my history class when I came across this little gem:

“In awaking, we return to ourselves. We recover the saving distance between what we are told to be and what we are. This saving distance is the space for irony. We wake: we tell our nightmare to someone; its hold on us begins to break; it begins to seem funny or at least untragic. We may still shudder in the telling, but at least we can share it. We can lighten up. The day can begin.”*

This speaks to me in so many ways. I get extremely frustrated by people who tell me to “get over it” or “move on” or “forgive and forget” or “stop being so bitter.” I have actually had someone tell me straight up that I shouldn’t be writing this blog and putting it all out there; that I should reconcile with my parents and then just forget it. She basically told me that it was acceptable to write about this stuff in a journal or diary but that I should stop putting it online for all to read. The thing is she has absolutely no clue as to what my relationship is with either of my parents and it is frankly none of her business.

People who know me and know my parents will either agree with what I’ve been saying or attack me and defend my parents as being good Christian people. I intentionally do not use any names in my writing here, no matter who I’m talking about. And I intend to continue doing that. It is not my goal to point fingers and tell the whole world how awful my parents or whoever else might be. The reason I write here is for just the reasons in that quote above. Awakening. When we get to tell someone about our tragedy it becomes something else. It is no longer a tragedy. And that is the whole point. Telling someone.

Since I started this blog, I can’t tell you how many times I have been told, in so many words, to shut up. I’ve also had a lot of encouragement and that is wonderful. I think it’s important to make it clear that by me telling my story, I am not making anyone else’s story invalid. I lived it. So I am writing what I lived. No matter how many times people try to tell me that “that’s not how it really was,” they didn’t live my life and they don’t actually know what they are talking about. Someone else can’t come to me and tell me what my experience was being raised by my parents or being homeschooled or any of the other things I talk about. It is both frustrating and amusing when someone tries to tell me what my parents were “really” like or what their intentions were.

The awakening is happening. And the more I tell my story the less it controls me. The more I talk about it the less ashamed I am. The more I write about it the less uncomfortable it becomes to talk about it.

My sister-in-law is due with her third baby in a very short time and I have to say that one of my greatest joys right now is having the privilege to watch how she and my brother are raising their kids. They are doing it differently. Differently than my parents did and differently than her parents did. They are having an awakening as well. And for all the baggage that has come together from both of our families, they are both very self-aware people. And I think that is the key to being a good parent. My parents were probably the least self-aware people ever. My mother still denies things that she has said and done as if time can erase hurt.

At times I do feel some sympathy for her in that I know she had a very difficult and somewhat awful childhood herself. But at the same time, even with all of that, I don’t think it’s a good enough excuse to go and give birth to 5 children yourself and basically do the same thing. Neglect, avoid, ignore, pretend, manipulate. At some point you have to grow up and say “this is my life, and I’m not going to make excuses anymore for doing things that hurt my children.” If you’ve been badly hurt in your life, it is your responsibility to take charge and get the help you need for yourself. I know how incredibly hard that can be. I’m still in the process myself. But choosing to have a family means that you have an additional responsibility. It’s not just about yourself but also about all these other lives you chose to bring into the world.

My saving grace has been the fact that I’m not in this alone. My brother and sister-in-law, as well as my other siblings, are going through a lot of the same type of thing. And that’s what really started this whole healing process. Being able to talk to my sister-in-law often about everything we’ve been through has been such a relief. She is married to my brother, who I am very much like, so she absolutely knows what I say is accurate. She has seen first hand the damage that was done and to have that person that I can go to who gets everything I say is awesome. We have had so many conversations about the ridiculous things we’ve seen and experienced and lived in fundamentalism. And we’re done with it. I’m done with it.

*Adam Budd, The Modern Historiography Reader: Western Sources.