Thursday, May 22, 2008

On why

A few nights ago, at some point between our second and third bottle of wine, a friend of mine and I were talking about problems he is experiencing at work. My friend had a bunch of questions he was struggling with. As he went through them I noticed that they all began with "why," as in "Why does my boss do this?" "Why does this keep happening?" "Why can't I make this happen?" "Why can't I have a more normal workplace?"

I tried to direct my friend's attention away from questions that begin with "why."

Why? Because the answers don't really give you any useful information. When I know why something is happening I still have to answer the question "How do I handle this?"

I am not talking about how-questions that are disguised as why-questions, such as "Why does this script keep crashing at line 418?" The question there really is "How can I stop this script from crashing?"

I'm talking about questions like "Why can't I lose weight easily?"

That one has plagued me for years.

But let's construct a fantasy for a minute in which I get the answer. Let's say there's a DNA sequence on Chromosome 9 in Region D9S3607 for me which is gtaatactgg. People who can lose weight easily have gtaatactta. There's why.

Now what?

I am still left with all of my how-questions which all boil down to: "How can I manage to achieve and maintain optimum health given these circumstances?"

The answer to the why-question does nothing other than quiet my emotions (if it even accomplishes that) and I am free to do that (i.e, quiet my emotions) anyway. I don't really need the answer to the why-question to let go of the emotional/mental struggle my persistent, unrelenting insistence on an answer for it creates. I can just drop the rock.

Furthermore, the answer to this why-question really does nothing to assist me in getting to answers for my how-questions. If I am to optimize my health I still have to focus on making the same adjustments to my eating and activity habits just as before I knew why. Knowing why doesn't get me any closer to knowing how.

And don't tell me that knowing why makes it easier to find the peace of releasing yourself from the struggle. There's always another why. Using this example, I could then jump to "Why did I have parents who gave me this gene sequence?"

Yet, I have been prone to spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years of prolonged struggle with these why-questions. Why didn't I see this before?

Oops.

What rocks are you carrying?

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