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.