On the nature of questions, thought and a bit beyond
Unless you’re in a philosophy class, you probably don’t ponder the nature of what a question is. And even if in a philosophy class, you’re likely taught to know great thinkers and their works; apply that to thinking in current times and maybe, just maybe reflect upon how this might apply to your life. But as to the question of the origin of a real question, and in particular, how that originiates inside ones being – that is, from ones subjective experience – that isn’t taught much in school, or really anywhere.
Ad to this the fact that popular understanding of the meaning of a question is uninspiring and not reflective of life’s splendor. Here’s an example of what I mean. The English (online) Oxford Dictionary offers the following definitions:
A Question (noun)
A sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information; A doubt about the truth or validity of something; A matter requiring resolution or discussion; A matter or concern depending on or involving a specified condition or thing.
To ask questions, especially in an official context; To feel or express doubt, raise objections.
It’s not that these definitions are wrong, it’s that they are incomplete and reflect nothing of the heart and pulse of a great question – the kind that are born raw and wordless. The kind that make us human and remind us that we are human…just by virtue of the fact that we can feel the impulse to wonder.
So you can imagine my thrill when reading about what Socrates had to say about the vibrancy and power of a question in a book titled, Why Can’t We Be Good, by Jacob Needleman. One section in particular, grabbed my attention because it talked about the possibility of questions that arise when thought (eg., the busy-mind) slows down or even stops. Needleman describes experiences in nature, among other situations, where he had early impressions of this quality of stopping inside that allowed for something different.
And so I ventured on my morning walk with the idea in mind of attending to what in nature compells me to stop, and be still inside. A simple experiment. But as the saying goes, that which is simple is often not easy.
And this is no exception.
Why Can’t We Be Good, by Jacob Needleman, 2007 Penguin Group.