Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Missing the “what” questions.

When I was an undergraduate, I often used to ask the “what” questions. As I was a Physics major, most of the puzzles were Physics-related. What is a mass? What is energy? What is space? What is time? There were other questions, of course, like what is life and what is love. I was wont to argue for many hours about these profound issues with my friends. We strolled along the river banks, we drank beer, we weathered the cold winter wind, we smiled at the cherry blossoms No matter what we did, we never stopped asking the “what” questions.

Almost 30 years later, it seems that my mind is nowadays mostly occupied by the “how” questions. How can I make this happen? How could one construct something? How do you bring about peace among these people? How are sustainable energies generated in principle? How can I make the person in front of me understand what I mean? How do you enrich life?

It is certainly true that the “how” questions are more practical, leading one to endless endeavors in the everyday towards the betterment of the general conditions of life in general. From the point of view of maturing, the progress from the “what” questions to the “how” questions was surely an advancement.

And yet, I sometimes find myself missing the “what” questions. I miss the pale-faced youngster who insisted on asking these simple-minded, but fascinating questions. I long for an encounter with someone who is stupid enough to ask the “what” questions, in this day and age.

Perhaps, if I dig deep into myself, I will still be able to find that youngster. Just a thought. It is such a fine day in Tokyo, a good opportunity for reveries, you know.


(ma)gog said...

I think I have always had "why" questions.

I hope you get better soon. Please take care.

(I am right now in Tokyo again.)

Pupa said...

Yes, it is certainly true that my mind is nowadays mostly occupied by the "how" questions.
The earnest "how" questions must be essential to improve our skill and life.
Nevertheless once I carelessly forget myself, the world is full of "what" and "why" questions.

What is the script at first?
What is his attitude to me? It is quite lacking in warmth!
what is this purple flower? Possibly is this " Ryu no Tama "(beads of dragon)?!
Our life will be rich with asking and reading a riddle.

maruko247 said...

I remember, as a child, being scolded for incessantly asking, “Why?” So much for nurturing intellectual curiosity . . . Perhaps because of this, my questions never really evolved. I feel somewhat stuck in time, asking the same questions, though now it is rarely out loud.

rolenzo said...

How good to find a fellow whatter. There is another kind of "what" question, I think, a rather more open-ended kind. For example, here's one that I've been working on for twelve years, in a naive bottom-up fashion: "What are the irreducible structures of information?"
Happily I can report half an answer.
But then another question: "What is the value of half an answer?"
Thanks for the provocation.

Naomi F said...

I enjoy reading your journal. Thanks for your inspiring Japanese people with your unique view of world.

I am the one who always ask "what" questions while I am working. What is the reason for doing this? What, and why... everyday. I believe that "what" questions keep everyone on the same page, especially when we are working as a team from different countries. What questions indicates "how". "What" comes first, "How" follows, no reverse.
However, these questions are not always welcome in this country. There are a lot of people always talks about "How" first. This county is, of course JAPAN, no doubt.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Good point! The "what" questions approache the essence of things.

It's true the "how" questions are also important, but it's the means of the "what" questions.

In my case? I'd like to be a pale-faced youngster all the time, but sadly I'm good at replacing the "what" questions with the "how" questions as an adult. Hmm, "how" do I change myself? Oops, "how" again...

ex_factor said...

It's very interesting for me.
I'm 34 yrs old, but I feel like I'm still 20yrs old everyday, I'm still looking for what I really want do every day, but I read your blog, suddenly I realized that I ask "how" questions more than "what" questions these days.
My passion and sincerity is disappering now?
I don't know but I'm afraid.
I'll think more about "what" questions starting from today!

Passionfruit said...

I think you should take a vitamin supplement.
Especially C and B group for the mucous membrane.
Take good care of yourself !

Johan Lange said...

Thank you sooo much for this journal. Found it as I can not sleep due to a strange stomach this very night. (Well, there are many "why:s" to find out...)

I'm compiling a book on lean, coaching and social media - and your thoughts all come handy there. Also preparing a seminar on Goal Setting for a multidisciplinary and multinational group on Nov 18.

Thank you, be well and take care!

Johan in Stockholm, Sweden

Anonymous said...

hello there thanks for your grat post, as usual ((o: