Too many questions
Mr. Schouten, my sixth-grade teacher, drummed into me the importance of asking questions. He was a pacer and pointer, walking back and forth at the front of the room, gesturing with fingers for emphasis.
‘Before you write anything, ask yourself these questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? And finally, the big one, Why? Without the Why? there is no story!’
So I’d write these headings down the side of my exercise book and fill in the gaps. Who? A young dingo called Dango. What? Left home. When? On a hot summer day. Where? In the middle of the Great Sandy Desert. How? Quickly. Why? Because he wanted to grow up.
And I was on my way with another story.
Unfortunately, I carried this principle into everyday life. Everything that happened to me turned into a story.
I’m too late for a connecting flight: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?
I miss out on a book contract. Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?
I lose my purse. Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?
After years of ceaseless questioning, I came to realize that the main point of these questions — especially the last one — Why? — was to find whose fault it was that these types of things happened — because it definitely wasn’t mine!
Mindfulness and Questions
Too many questions create too many stories. Sometimes it’s best to just accept what is — without trying to unravel all the threads to find possible answers.
Yes, yes, I know Socrates said, An unexamined life is not worth living. But I doubt he meant I should be shooting off questions all the time.
Drop the questions. Ease off self-interrogation. Untangle yourself.
As Mr. Schouten used to say, ‘Without the Why? there is no story.’ Stories in school exercise books, paperbacks and Kindles are fine. It’s the stories that we weave to try to explain, justify ourselves or vilify others, that are our downfall.
Drop self-made stories.
Stop asking Why?
Life is so much lighter and easier when you do.
With love, Marlane