Why – Revisited


A friend sent me one of those humorous emails we all get. The original email contained several questions that, while valid, were also amusing to contemplate. Two examples are:

Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?

Why is ‘abbreviated’ such a long word?

She sent it for my amusement, but also added the comment that it might be worthy of one of my musings. Well, it certainly was worth musing, but not, perhaps, in the way she intended.

My mind drifted back decades ago to grammar, literature and science classes in high school. I recalled some of the lessons we had on those infamous questions – “what, when, who, how and why.” In total, they seek in their answers all the information we might ever want to know about something or someone. But they aren’t all equal in my mind.

The first four – “what, when, who and how”, deal with quantifiable answers. With sufficient investigation, research and focused experiments, they usually can be answered. But the “why” question is something else again. The answer to that is to know the reason or rationale about some fact or act. The answers to the “why” questions above are pretty straight forward. However, “why” questions also address the imponderables in our lives and in the universe. Why are we here? Why do I or does someone I love have cancer? Why is the universe the way it is? Those are heavy duty questions.

Apparent answers to “why” questions simply generate more “why” questions. If the answer to cancer is genetics, then the question becomes “Why are we governed by genetics?” Maybe as Winston Churchill once said of Russia; there is no answer to “why” Russia acts as it does because it is – “… is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” And in a similar fashion the answers to our “why” questions are riddles, wrapped in mysteries, inside enigmas.

Because we are humans with an insatiable curiosity, we always have and always will ask and seek answers to “why” questions, especially as they affect our lives. It seems that only God or fate has the answers to the “why” questions. That said, don’t ask me “why” we have such an insatiable desire to know the answers. I don’t know “why.”

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