This post originally appeared on March 28, 2016.
If you've ever spent more than 2.7 seconds around a toddler, you've heard them ask, "Why?"
Perhaps you've heard them ask it more than once.
Their incessant pursuit of understanding is charming at first. If we're feeling playful, we adults may humor the child, coming up with answers ranging from totally reasonable to wildly fanciful. In fact, it can be a lot of fun to see how many ways there are in which to answer a toddler's "Why?"
Sooner or later, though, the game wears thin and we end up trotting out those old reliable answers, "Because," or, "It just is."
I find it amusing that the question is almost always "Why?" and not "How?" or "What?" - as if those are obvious, and irrelevant. What matters is the why.
Why do they do that? Why do they keep asking and asking and asking even after they get an answer? Why do they demand explanation of the answer?
Why are they trying to break us?
They're not really trying to take us down, despite what we may think. They're just trying to get a complete picture of the world. They're trying to figure out all the elegant and weird things the world has to offer and where they fit into it.
The funny thing is, at some point we go from being the toddler in the picture to adult. We're no longer the inquisitive little person trying to make sense of it all; we're the reasonable adult who expects "Because." to be a satisfying answer. Unless it's our job, we place higher value on periods than on question marks.
Or is it?
Do you ask the Universe, "Why?"
How do you feel when It says, "Because."
Is there freedom in, "Because."? (short answer: yes, and that's a topic for a future post)
If there is no satisfying answer, might it be because we're asking the wrong question?
Does the why really matter? When we shift the question to, "How?" or, "What?," we open up the possibility of an answer that leads us to take action.
And maybe, just maybe, that's the key to figuring out the world and where we fit into it.
Ask questions. Start with a, "Why?," and then shift it to something slightly different. Start with, "What is really going on here?" Work toward something like, "How would the best version of myself respond to this?" or, "What is this experience teaching me about myself?"
And notice what happens.