The Idea Dude


Monday, January 12, 2009

When the question is more important than the answer.

If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can read how 107 influential people answered the question posed by The Edge for 2009, i.e. "What will change everything?". However it wasn't these answers that intrigued me the most, it was a line that came out of an interview with James Lee Byars by Thomas McEvilley. In describing Byars, who defied being stereotyped and boxed into a single description...

Answer is the betrayal of the open spirit of Question

I thought about this. A lot.

Most, if not all of us, love closure. Knowing the answer, finishing the race, reaching our goals. But if you look back and really reflect on what made each experience memorable and life changing, it is hardly that final act of finishing. No matter how large that singularity may be, it is always the question that has driven us further, defined us, taught us and changed our lives.

Answers make us feel complete can comfortable. Knowing gives us a sense of power, self-confidence. Yet, is it not the question that drives us to advancement, invention, creativity? Once you have the answer, the value of the question and its importance diminishes rapidly. Ergo, the answer is the betrayal of the open spirit of question. To never have an answer means we continue searching. Searching means we travel down unexplored paths that ultimately enriches our lives by adding character and experience.

"I know" defines our past. "What if" defines our future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love the line of reasoning you've raised. Perhaps if we realize that all "knowing" is but partial -- that we will never fully "know" while we walk this earth -- we'll be able to maintain the spirit of inquiry that will help us continue to actively explore the mysteries that are part of the ongoing, incremental learning process that is life.

That way, we'll never feel as if we've "arrived" simply because we've received a single (perhaps one-dimensional) answer to one of our myriad questions. We might even learn to reframe that question based on the answer we've already received, to see if there might not still be more to be learned from it.

Fascinating post!

11:36 PM  
Blogger The Idea Dude said...

Hi Jeanne,

I love the way you extended the thought with the idea of reframing the question to see if we can't learn more from it. That's an awesome idea.

Thank you

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Erenor said...

Hi Jeanne, Vernon,

I second your posts above. Let me just add one more thought, since I should be on my way to university already:

"I think that people take many questions as answers."

Especially theories or models which we use to describe the world should be used with constant scrutiny. Aren't they – at heart – a question directed at the very nature of things? ... as Jeanne said, let's see a little bit more "question" in every "answer". =)


5:13 AM  

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