This I Believe

Jynette - Axtell, Nebraska
Entered on May 8, 2006

This I Believe….

Questioning & Confusion

As someone from a small farming community in North Dakota, I was raised to believe in family, community, religion, self-sufficiency and tradition, but I was the “difficult child.” I questioned everything I was told. I came to value and believe in the questioning of everyday life and the confusion that resulted from it. My mother likes to tell a story of when I was 5 to illustrate my difficult nature. She told me to do something, or not to do something – the exact nature of the task and the setting as fallen away from our collective memory – but my reply was not the typical “OK” or “No” of a 5 year old. Rather, I pointedly looked at her with confusion on my face and asked; “Mama, is that a do as I say and not as I do?”

As I got older and went off to college the value of questioning and changeling my existing beliefs and those of others, became more solidified. I relished in the excitement and confusion that comes with challenging all that I had been taught and told. I was yet again the “difficult one” that keep the professors on their toes. Asking the unexpected questions, hungry for the answers and stimulated in the complexity of our world and the confusion that it brought. Now, as a college professor myself, I am even more keenly aware of the value of questioning and the confusion that it can cause. I see it every year in faces of the incoming freshman, those 17 and 18 year olds who’s whole lives have been defined by beliefs passed down from their parents, their community and tradition. Those young people who are, maybe for the first time, faced with a world that is not clear, solid and consistent, but rather ambagious, shaky, and ever changing. And every year I try to pass on my belief in questioning and confusion. I encourage them to question the taken for granted assumptions about their life. Question what “family” looks like, what a community is and should be, how religion, both theirs and others, shapes our everyday lives, whether or not self-sufficiency should be valued above all, and those traditions, what ever they maybe, passed down from generation to generation. As one student said to me recently, “My life was simple before you made me look at it and question it. Now I’m just confused.” “Good,” I replied, “I’ve done my job.”

I believe it is through questioning and confusion that we make progress in our attempts to understand the gray areas of our existence. It pushes us beyond what we know. Ultimately, it is this process that makes us strive to be better than what we are or were, and what propels us to move forward both as individuals and a society. I believe in the value of questioning and confusion, they keep me excited about the world and hopeful for a better future.