Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tell me why

Little kids are forever asking “Why?” “Why do I have to go to school? Wear underwear? Eat vegetables? Do what you say?”

We lose too much of that when we grow up. We only use “why” when we’re speaking or thinking in the abstract, as in “Why do fools fall in love,” or “Why was that couple on the news keeping 261 Golden Retrievers in their double-wide?” We know we’re not getting an answer.

It would be much more constructive to ask the question when the answer is available and useful. When I whine “Why did I do that?” I’m asking myself for an answer. It might help for me to figure out so that I can repeat the action if the result is good, or avoid it if bad. If we don’t question ourselves, we are going on autopilot. “Why did I say that?” or “Why did I eat that?” may lead to constructive thinking.

Ever find yourself in the middle of a boring conversation, where someone is trying to tell you more than you want to know about his opinion on global warming? Amuse yourself, while showing rapt attention, by wondering why this person is saying these things. Why does he think you care what he thinks? The “Why” will be more entertaining than the droning monologue. Wonder if he’s trying to educate you, or to show how smart he is, or to let you know he thinks deep thoughts? How about the one that tells you about the very best cat litter, the best vacations they ever took, or the best hair dresser? Why does she think you might care? Why does she get so excited telling you these things? Maybe you’re the first audience she’s had all day. Why does she talk so much without taking a breath?

If you are waiting for a pause so that you can contribute your opinion, think again. In the first place, the wait will be long and boring. In the second place, you may just be trading places from the bored to the boring. Why would you want to do that? Besides, he or she may play the same game, analyzing why you say things. If you don’t have any interests in common worth talking about, why don’t you plan your escape? Why don't you make new friends?