Are You In The Pursuit of Questions?



A tale of two columns (a play on the titEL A tail of 2 Cities) ... it was the best of NY Times, it was the wurst of Times

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An En.count.her With A Sphinx

Some people believe that life is the pursuit of questions. Socrates (and Sock.ra.tease) loved asking questions and seeing where they led.

An enduring myth of the importance of questions is the story of Oedipus' meeting with the sphinx at the crossroads of life and being asked to answer a life or death question (in the form of a riddle).

Smart people the world over have learned that the question you ask narrows and guides the answer you will receive. Questions lead the mind to look for an answer that fits.

And others open up the field of responses wider ... such as "If you could have anything in the world you want, what would it be and why?" (Chances are, it won't be bouillabaisse. Some people might mention a large sum of money, others a humanitarian ideal like world peace or goodwill towards all men.

Truth: More open ended questions lead to more open ended answers.

But you see what I mean. The question "who stole the cookies?" is looking for a very different answer than "are any of the cookies missing?" The first is looking for a name and is based on the assumption that cookies are missing and that they have been stolen rather than lost or misplaced.

The Importance of Questions

So why is this all so important? Because the questions you ask yourself (and others) determine to a large degree the answers you get. So if you ask yourself all day long "Why am I so stupid?" you will get answers that not only tell you WHY you are stupid but confirm over and over that YOU Are stupid.

The same thing applies if you use the word "brilliant". You probably have met someone in the course of your life who thought they were brilliant, even though it was clear to everyone around them that they weren't (any different than anyone else). Ever wonder how they came to such a conclusion? One of the ways is by being told too often in early life what they were, so they came to hold that belief -- regardless of what they did. Then they constantly ask themselves questions (and look for evidence) that will automatically confirm the belief -- whether it is true or not.

Which all leads to ...

Truth: Better framed questions lead to better answers.

The Sphinx knew that, and framed her questions in the form of riddles, so that the question would guide someone to think deeply about an idea without tipping her paw (or the other person off) and leading them straight to the answer.


The Value in Questions & Answers

There is not much value in answering the question "How much is 2 plus 2?" Most people already know the answer and do not give it any thought. The answer rises in consciousness by route memory. So ... knowing the answer to "How much is 2 plus 2?" won't make you any more money or change or life. Why? Because somebody already figured out the answer millennia ago and told everybody else and now everybody on the planet over the age of 4 knows the answer to that question.

Life Path Two: Chef, Baker, Cook by Manifest Books

Being told the known answers to basic life questions ... such as how do I cook meat safely or calculate the square area of a football field (helpful if you need to order enough seed to replant the turf) ... is very helpful ... and hopefully whoever told you had the right answer. Knowing those answers saves you lots of time so you do not have to re-invent the "wheel of basic life knowledge".

And if you train for a specialized vocation or hobby, you will be told a lot more specialized answers for the questions that profession or interest deals in. For example, doctors and nurses learn lots of answers to respond to their patients questions of "what is wrong with me doctor and what do I do about it? in the form of disease names and recommended treatments. The TV show "House" is essentially a hunt for the right answer to a puzzling riddle of medical symptoms. The characters have to really think about the answer and get it right -- a matter of life and death -- just like with the Sphinx (who makes you Think).


Truth: The more interesting questions "to answer" are the ones we do not already know the "answer 2".


Personal & Universal Questions

It is important at this point to know there are two types of questions: universal and personal. Answers to universal questions are of interest to a wide range of people -- who may put a financial value on them. Answers to personal questions, are by their nature, of interest and value usually only to you and the people who truly love you. Others may be curious about the process you used, the impact it has had on your life and the kind of answer you came up with. But, most often, they are curious and interested because they want to find their own answer.

Truth: Answering a universal question has earning potential while answering a personal question has learning potential.


Meaningful Questions

Some people like to dwell on questions no one knows the answer to "How many grains of sand are there in the world?" (Personally, I think the ladder [Jacob's and other.wise] is a trick question to see who in the universe has too much thyme on their hands and needs a more challenging Job, but YMMV

But I think it is more interesting to focus on questions you want to find an answer to, questions that are meaningful to you and whose answers can improve your life. For instance, "Who am I?"

In case you haven't guessed it, it is one of the BIG questions in life. And it is a doozie (short for due.sin.burg -- don't ask) ... a very personal question that seeks to describe who you are and your relationship to the universe.

Serpent in the grass

YOu could start to answer it by saying what you are not ... I am not a farmer, I am not a chimpanzee I am not my father, I am not my mother ... but there are millions of things that exist and saying what you are not would take almost forever ... certainly all the your days of life ... and you might not have finished saying what you were not, by the time you reached the end of your days ... {hmmm .. does the End of Days just mean "the end" of the curse/blessing of "all the days of your life" for the tale of the sir.pent.up and the Adam's apple? Curious. Sorry .. off on a}

Giving a list of professional titles or activities ... such as butcher, baker, candlestick maker .. or father, housewife, student ... the labels other people call you ... won't work well either. They do not tell you "who you are" and what makes you different and unique from everyone else.

It's a question that only you can answer -- because you are the only one who knows for sure who you really are ... under the masks we all Don to get by ... earn a paycheck ... and be loved (or cared for) by those around us.

Good Questions Have Evolving Answers

Some questions, like the Sphinx's riddle, have many answers. And all of them are right. Each one is a response that accurately reflects where you are coming from and where you (and your thoughts) are taking you. As your knowledge and understanding grows, so does the way you interpret the question and thus the answers evoked may come from a different, deeper place inside of you ... memorized or culturally programmed answers can give way to subconscious upwellings ... which can give way to heartfelt outpourings ... which can give way to udder non.sense wise enough to get the nod of a Sphinx to Carrie on.

The cock that crows for AT.hens, Al

So the pursuit of good questions, questions that make you think, give your mind something to mull over like spiced wine, can get the "wheels" rolling in your mind and take you to some interesting places ... where more questions and better questions are found ... maybe that is why the chicken crossed the road and the charioteer crossed the Red C.


Maybe that's why we are all here.

To answer the questions life poises with every experience we have and every breath we take and every thought we embrace or reject. We are in a dialog every moment of the day with ourselves and our world, answering a myriad of questions.


Everyday Life Questions

For many of us, these questions are pretty mundane ... "What should I have for dinner tonight?" ... "what do I want to watch on TV?" ... "what do I want to do with my life?" ... "do I have to do my homework tonight or can I risk blowing it off?" ... "will I get a date for the prom?" "who would want to go with me?" ... "what am I going to get for Christmas?" ... "when will I ever grow up?" ... "am I good enough to get this job?" ... "is it too soon to ask for a raise?" ... "can I get away with calling in sick just this once?" ... "how many more years till retirement and how do I keep from going crazy?"

Key 12 ... The Hanged Man's Foot ... a word and letter guessing game

And far too often, the same questions run on a loop in our life, hanging us up like the Hanged Man. Our foot (life) is caught up in low meaning questions, and we are left dangling while time marches on.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Questions are a way for us to navigate our way through the mysteries of life and find solutions to the pre.dic.A.meants "we find ourselves" in.


Truth: The questions you ask focus your thoughts on finding answers ... which can inspire you to explore new ideas and seek out more knowledge.

So, in a way, the Sphinx's riddle was a way to see the approach* they were taking in life and how far a person had come in their understanding of Life's mysteries. Since the sphinx hung out at crossroads, your answers indicated which road or path you needed to take ... and if you were willing to let your ignorance die. If you saw the sphinx and felt you were not ready, it was clear you needed to turn around and gain more life experience and understanding before you moved forward ... or face the consequences of being unprepared.

And who wants to be unprepared?

So, that is why I enjoy good questions that prepare you for life.


The Big Questions of Life

Who are you?

Why are you here?

Where are you coming form*?

Where are you going?

Who do you want to become?

What makes you unique?

What inspires you?


More Good Question Resources

If you are looking for more great questions, here are a few books I recommend ...





The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion

This is a great resource for questions you can ask yourself or others to get to know who you are and what others think about a variety of issues.  






If... (Questions For The Game of Life)  

Understanding yourself better is the purpose of this book, which helps you discover how you feel and think about a wide variety of topics.  



The Book of Fabulous Questions: Great Conversation Starters about Love, Sex and Other Personal Stuff

This is another book full of 600+ questions that are great for starting conversations and getting to know others (or yourself much better). The questions range from the innocent, starter questions to much more intimate and intereseting personal questions.  






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* thor.roughly


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