I believe in the power of questions and their ability to expose fraud, keep authority figures in check and, when the proper questions are asked, to reveal the secrets of our universe and our place therein. It is the questioning nature of humanity that helped us develop technology and come out our caves in the first place. And it is our questioning nature that we should embrace.
Since an early age, I’ve been asking hard questions and often getting soft answers. I quickly realized whom I ask is as important as what I ask. I won’t get straight answers on cosmology from a religious authority figure. Nor will I get satisfying answers on governmental policies from a politician. Sometimes, I have to ask the hardest questions of myself.
I was sent home from Sunday School at the local Church of Christ when I was ten years old for ‘asking too many questions’. Some of my family considered this a public shame. In a small Missouri town, getting kicked out church and being labeled a troublemaker is tantamount to being forced to wear a large red ‘A’ everywhere you go. Being a skeptic was not considered socially redeeming behavior. For me, this was a badge of honor. The unbridled power of inquiry hit me full force and an entire new world was laid before me. For the first time in my life I realized that I would have to chart my own path through two thousand years of western religion, two hundred years of American democracy and ten thousand years of civilized history. No longer would I take anyone’s word for anything.
With this belief comes a responsibility: research. Asking questions means I never take “I don’t know,” for an answer. I am often required to do hours of research on subjects about which I previously knew nothing simply because I need to know. It means I can’t afford to be intellectually lazy or take short cuts. It means admitting there are some things I don’t know and not being ashamed of it. Lack of knowledge is not a crime. Homo sapiens evolved large brains as their primary defense mechanism against a harsh and dangerous world. To not use that ability is to deny millions of years of evolution, perhaps the worst crime of all.
School House Rock didn’t lie to me when I was young. Knowledge IS power. It’s power that can be granted to anyone who has the will and determination to examine the world around them, question it and demand honest answers.
I believe that as a parent, an American, and (most importantly) a human being it is my duty to ask questions. And if someone hits me with a query? Well, I’ll admit I may not know the answer, but I’ll figure out where to look it up and get back to you.
And that usually leads to more questions.
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