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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Q and A

As I was growing up, I had a really irritating habit, one that I still have but am much more aware and in control of. No, I’m not talking about booger-eating (which I still don’t see the problem with). Rather, it was the need to answer questions when they were asked.

It wasn’t just the questions my elementary school teacher would ask, but any question asked that was remotely in my direction from anyone ranging from my little brother to complete strangers. I always just seemed to have an answer.

Among my friends and my siblings, I was notorious for this habit. In times of playful wonderment, questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why is the moon following us wherever we drive?” would come up. Without hesitation, I’d start to explain as best I could all of the physics, math or definitions that went into any given answer. I could usually answer “correctly” because I wondered these things myself and always sought an explanation.

It wasn’t that I wanted to show off how brainy I was, or that it was some self-competitive game I liked to play with myself, but I just unconsciously felt that when a question is asked you give an answer. I would say, “I don’t know” when I didn’t know. If I thought I knew, I answered. Just as long there was some sort of response, I felt as though I’d be maintaining natural order.

Then one day, in another instance of wonderment, my brother asked me a question. Well, not to me, but asked a question while I was in audible range of him. It turns out that it was a question that he didn’t want to have answered. As I began to answer, he interrupted me with another question. “Why do you always have to have an answer? Why can’t you just let the question be?”

“That was a good question,” I thought. That moment changed me forever.

Paradoxically, I wondered, “Should I always seek an answer?”

A deacon of my parish is partly known as a spiritual sage, in addition to a theological one. Something he always seems to advocate is to seek the questions rather than the answers because the right questions are always much more revealing.

He’d say that right questions are always far more important because the right questions are mysteries. And mysteries are not things that have not yet been solved or not yet known. Rather, mysteries are “infinitely known.” What he means is there are answers that have been given, and they are correct too, but there will always be more answers just as correct and complete, yet different.

To return to the question: why is the sky blue? Physics gives one answer, and it’s right. However, why is it that that specific refracted wavelength of electromagnetic energy gives the appearance of blue? Couldn’t it have just as easily been violet or green?

So to end this column, I’ll leave you with some questions I’ve found to be quite mysterious, yet they are the some of the most simple. I encourage all to rethink those simple questions in life. You’ll find that if you answer them, you’re still left wanting. Maybe it is best to just not answer them.

Inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, what is the ultimate question to life, the universe and everything (especially if the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything is 42)?

When Jesus resurrected, why did he retain only the wounds of his crucifixion but was healed everywhere else?

How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man? (And doesn’t this question philosophically beg the question since we already assume that he’s a man?)

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

From a story I heard once: “You don’t like any music?! Have you no soul?!”

Who and why is God?

Why does matter attract itself?

What DO women want? Do they even know? Is it the same as what men want?

What is love? (I ask this because it doesn’t seem to be an emotion. You can be angry with someone but still love them, right?)


JEREMY MALLETT welcomes questions. Send them to jjmallett@ucdavis.edu He would also like to give an early birthday shout out to Divina. Have a Happy Birthday tomorrow! XXX


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