Why?

Posted on 31 January 2010


Why is one of the first words we learn to say after “Mama” and “Dada.”   The very essence of the word is the core of the human existence.  As flawed human beings, we seek reasons for the flaws as well as everything else that colors our world, both personal and in the greater scheme of things.  Why? is the question we utter so often while trying to make sense of an often incomprehensible world.

When we were growing up, how often did we pester our parents or other adults with seemingly endless questions ranging from “Why is the sky blue?” to “Why did Grandpa go to heaven?”.  Even after we received the answers — or the best that the adults could conjure up — we still uttered, “But why?“  I am sure that some of you remember when your parents decided it was time to have the “birds and the bees” talk with you. “Why did they insist upon using examples from the animal kingdom,” you may ask?  They did so to waylay the worst of their embarrassment, engendered by your countless, “Why?“s.  That’s why!

Chances are, by the time your parents got up the gumption to have this little tete a tete with you, you already had a good idea of … no pun intended … the lay of the land.  But still, you needed validation from your parents, who, by the way, would be more apt to put up with your ceaseless queries of “Why?” than your friends and classmates whispering half-truths in the schoolyard.

The tendency to question has carried through to our so-called adult lives.  It had to.  As a species, we have been hot-wired to probe, analyze, and find solutions to everyday and larger problems.  Had we not questioned things, we would never have tamed fire, created language, sailed the seven seas, walked on the moon, broken the genetic code, and oh yes, waged war upon each other from the time of the caveman until the present day.  To question is to broaden our horizons; not to question is to remain stagnant and ignorant.  And sometimes, when we question, we get answers, yet still we remain in the dark.

Case in point: the price of gasoline.  Why do people in certain South American nations pay 10 cents per gallon while we, here in New Jersey (land of the refineries!) pay $2.55, currently, and more?  The pundits in DC will spout answers about “supply and demand” and it all seems to make sense, but then again, it doesn’t.  Why did the cutthroats in high finance and the insurance industry get mega billion dollar bail outs but the common taxpayer only get the shaft?  “To stimulate the economy!” cried DC.  Well, that seems to make sense, but if you cut the consumer off at the knees to help the robber barons, it doesn’t.  You see my point, don’t  you?

Down through the ages, many artists and songwriters have tried to find clarity and logic to many unanswered questions, most of them involving love in one form or another.  Love of country, love of God, love of a good woman or a good man.  The love of another person is the biggest “Why?” of all.  Why spend all that time, money, angst, and more upon a person who may or may not return our love?  Maybe, in the long run, love, and by association, the continuance of our strange society, is the ultimate reason we keep asking “Why?

In contemporary music alone, the word “Why?” surfaces often:

  • Why Oh Why by Celine Dion
  • Why Baby Why by George Jones
  • Tell Me Why by Wynonna Judd
  • Why Worry by Art Garfunkel
  • I Wonder Why by B.B. King
  • Tell Me Why by the Beach Boys
  • I Don’t Know Why by Aerosmith …

 and the ultimate question love, as covered in song by Diana Ross:  Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

On our life’s journeys, we seek the answers to the vagaries of love and so very many other things for which the answers always seem to elude us.  I think that the lyrics to this song by Billie Holiday say a lot about our questions:

Why was I born?

Why am I livin’?

What do I get?

What am I givin’?

Why do I want for things

I dare not hope for?

What can I hope for?

I wish I knew.

Why do I try

To draw you near me?

Why do I cry?

You never hear me.

I’m a poor fool,

But what can I do.

Oh baby …

Why was I born

To love you?

 

We continue to question and continue not to like so many of the answers that we receive.  Perhaps that’s why we are still asking, “Why?

Why do we create unemployment, fear, financial misery, battlefields, and war within our own four walls?  Why do we hurt those we love best?  Why are there famine and drought, earthquakes and hurricanes, erupting volcanoes and erupting psyches going postal?   Why does the sun still bother to rise every day?  Why does spring inevitably follow winter?  Why do we cling so very tenaciously to life when it seems easier to do the opposite? 

Maybe, when we quit this earth and come face to face with our Maker, we’ll have all of the answers.  Maybe not.  I’m not sure that even God knows why we do the things that we do to each other; after all, He’s given us free reign under the auspices of free will.  So, I guess we’ll just continue to ask the ages-old question of “Why? 





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18 Responses to “Why?”

  1. Editor says:

    The question “Why?” has been the driving force behind innovation and discovery. It has been termed “the mother of invention.” But, in trying to identify the motives for human behavior spurred by the question “Why?”, I myself prefer to answer with another question, “Why not?”

  2. Susan says:

    Because!

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