Monday, December 03, 2007



I always ask questions for which there are either no answers, or which there are answers which can never be known. I was wondering this morning just how many words I’d written over my lifetime. There is an answer to this one, obviously, but who would/could take the time to track them down and count them all? How many times have I said “I love you”? And to how many people?

I really want to know how many grains of sand are in all the deserts of the earth…how many pebbles line the shores of all the lakes and oceans? The mind’s capacity for fascination is endless.

Some of the classic questions which have been posed throughout history and are seemingly unanswerable are, in fact, quite simple. “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”, for example. The answer is “As many as want to.” As to “How high is up?” , the answer is “any distance above the top of one’s head.” “How far can a dog run into the woods?” Halfway…then he’s running out. “How long is a piece of string?” Exactly twice the distance from either end to the center. Fun to ponder, though not exactly deeply significant to the human condition.

So many questions are nothing more than word games. We’ve all seen those lists of trick questions about the location of a house whose windows on all sides face south, or where they would bury the survivors of a plane crash in which all were killed? Most take advantage of our mind’s habit of automatically being drawn to what we assume to be the obvious, and it is, in fact, the wording of the question itself or how it is asked which creates the problem.. One of my favorite examples of the latter is: “John has three coins totaling forty-five cents. One of them is NOT a quarter.” The answer to that is: “actually, two of them aren’t quarters. But one IS.”

And there are those questions to which there can be no acceptable answer, such as the classic: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” No matter which way you answer, you’re in trouble.

It’s human nature to expect answers (the more simple the better) to questions which are either unanswerable or too detailed for anyone to be able to answer. ?What’s the meaning of life?” is a perennial crowd-pleaser, when the fact is that life doesn’t have one meaning, it has many. “Is there life after death?” The only way to know is to die, and the fact that there is so little hard evidence in support of a “yes,” the question is more one of wishful thinking than anything else.

But I’ve always been absorbed by simpler questions to which there quite probably are scientific answers which I simply do not know: do ladybugs dream? What is the mental capacity of a cockroach? Exactly what do cat’s think? Why can’t we communicate with animals better than we do? What is the meaning of the slit at the base of a cat’s ears?

Oh, so very many questions! Silly questions, profound questions, questions the answers to which affect our humanity. Why so few people seem to question anything at all? (I guess the answer to that one is that it is far easier to simply accept what one is told without question. Thus we have politicians and organized religion.)
I really would love to live long enough to find answers for 1/1000th of the questions to which I’d really like answers. That I won’t frustrates me no end. Why can’t I?

Well, we’ve reached the last stop on this particular train of thought…though they’re laying new tracks even as we speak. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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