This permission may sound somewhat similar to my C permission which was to be curious. But it’s not. Whilst there might be some overlap, given it always important to ask questions to understand extrinsic factors and events, I believe questioning as somewhat different to curiosity, Questioning has more of an element of the intrinsic and is more about testing personal assumptions and long held beliefs.
There are things in life we all just want to do by rote. Tieing shoe laces, using a telephone, brushing teeth and walking are a few examples. The amount of mental energy we wish to expend on these activities is minimal because that way we can save it for the good stuff. Washing hands used to also be one of these activities until the nasty union of tap manufacturers decided to get together and make most modern taps in public washrooms an IQ test! There’s nothing worse than standing in front of a basin with hands that need washing in a state of confusion trying to find something to turn or press to make the magical water appear only to be faced with plain porcelain. And that will be the very time that the bathroom is empty so that you can’t even follow another innocent handwasher’s lead. What do you mean the basin has a sensor?
Then there are those things in life you want to do by choice. That’s conscious, well informed choice and not by default or out of habit. This is where questioning comes in, a necessary link in the chain of progress and change.
And for most of us middle age is a time when questioning comes to the fore as we start challenging the assumptions which have determined the direction of our lives up to this point. To me, this is a good thing, although the process can be quite unsettling at least until we have replaced those of the old set of assumptions that no longer serve us with a new set and the way forward becomes clearer.
If you are a parent or have been exposed to young children of about 4 years of age, you probably will remember that (mostly) wonderful stage when said child or children start every sentence with “why” or similar.
You may have heard or received some of these classics:
If ghosts can walk around, and go through doors, why don’t they fall through the floor?
Why do cats have 9 lives?
Was everything in black and white in the olden days?
By asking these questions children start to expand their worlds and test the assumptions they hold as a result of mommy and daddy having taught them what to assume. It’s a sign that they are thinking, processing and growing.
As adults, we should continue to question and grow. Whilst the pace of growth is not as high as in children, continue to grow we must, especially if our lives have gotten to the point where we do most things out of habit. How many times have you heard or said “I wish I had done this sooner”? If you don’t question, you will never get to why you do something and you will never be able to change it.
Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behaviours. We need to question not only the thoughts that lead us to habitual behaviour but also understand what is the payback we receive from these behaviours. If being comfortable is the payback, then that’s absolutely fine as long as it is a conscious choice.
Many of the assumptions that have worked for me to date, no longer hold true. I am in the midst of questioning a majority of them and I do so without guilt. The weight of others’ expectation no longer prevents me from questioning. I may not have all the answers, in fact I may never have any. But at least I have thought and questioned.
I am, therefore I question.
Today I give myself permission to question.
What’s the funniest question from a child you have aver heard? Do you ever have to think about using a tap? Have you ever questioned a critical assumption?