Pick a Question …

It is no coincidence that one of the first words in our vocabulary is “why?” We use it to hack away at the unclear world, to cut through the overgrown undergrowth as we make our steady way towards understanding more and more. We question our surroundings. What is that, why is he doing that, and so forth. The more questions we ask, the more answers we receive and the more we learn.

The trouble is, if we are lucky enough not to lose the skill of questioning altogether through an ironically immature pride, we lose the simple simplicity of our questioning. Once we simply asked if certain objects could be identified, or why specific actions were being carried out. But now, when we are our own teachers, we lose sight of the necessity to question the simple and obvious things around us. Now the questions we ask become more and more grand. Where am I going? What is my destiny? What is the meaning of life?

All these questions are important, but always remember that the whole is the sum of its parts. The key to answering these questions is in readdressing what appears simple and obvious. It is only once we have understood the small features of our environment and our actions that we can put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and see the wider picture. Certainly we want to know what our destiny is, but the key to this lies in a far more mundane question.

What did you have for breakfast?

Okay, so maybe this one question isn’t the key to spiritual fulfilment, a cure for cancer and the solution to third world poverty, but take it as an example to see how important it can be.

So: what DID you have for breakfast? Perhaps you had toast. And here comes the key. Ask “why”. What on earth can you learn from analysing your morning meal?

Maybe I had cornflakes for breakfast. Why? Perhaps because I’m lazy. I want the most convenient option, and reaching for a bowl and pouring milk and cornflakes in it is quick and easy. Mind you, it does mean I have to wash the bowl. What did I do with the bowl?

Did I leave it on the table? The fact that I leave everything at my feet might emphasise how lazy I am, or it might just mean I’m a procrastinator, always waiting until it’s absolutely necessary.

Did I put it in the sink and not wash it? Perhaps I’m planning for washing it later on. Perhaps I’m even concerned about saving water. Why? Because my water usage is metered and I pay according to what I use? Or maybe I’m concerned about the environment because of a sense of responsibility for my surroundings.

Did I wash it straight away? Perhaps this means I’m impatient, or simply don’t like to leave things until they accumulate. Or perhaps I want my house to look orderly for visitors- keeping up appearances.

Maybe I had toast for breakfast. Again, it’s a convenient quick food. Let’s say I had wholemeal toast. Why?

It is because I’m concerned about nutrition? Perhaps I am afraid of falling sick or becoming unhealthy- maybe because my family is hereditarily unhealthy. Maybe I want to keep my physique and fitness, which, combined with exercise impresses my friends and helps me to climb the social ladder. Or perhaps it helps me to get into sports teams where I can satisfy my competitive urges.

This is only an example of how one simple question, perhaps asked while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for a bus, can make you consciously think about your motivations and analyze WHY you do something rather than just doing it. I accept that you will probably say I am reading too much into such insignificant actions, but just think of the thought processes involved. Think of the work involved if you were programming a computer to make the same decisions. Think of the calculations it would have to make. So much that you do subconsciously; learn from it, and gain a better understanding of what makes you tick.

– Irvine