Answers

Part of teaching is helping students learn how to tolerate ambiguity, consider possibilities, and ask questions that are unanswerable.

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

 

questions

 

And what would they be…the unanswerable questions…

We ask them all the time. Naively. Believing answers are forthcoming. Nice, neat, tidy answer boxes we can check off…putting our minds at ease.

Humans need explanations. Logical reasons for behaviors…and difficult situations. Doubt disturbs the equilibrium we crave.

Children’s why questions…usually answerable…

Why do I need to wash my hands?
Why can’t I touch the stove…run into the street?

Until they’re not…

Why are those kids so mean?
How come grandpa had to die?

As time passes, the answers thin out. They don’t cut it.
We see through them. The holes.  The exceptions. The weaknesses. The path to newer questions. Black and white fading to gray.

In the end…sometimes no answers. Not really. We’ve lived too long to settle. We know better. But still…not why.

Why is she sick with cancer and I’m not?
Why can’t the doctors figure out what is wrong with me?

Shifting realities pose more questions than answers.
Humans don’t fit neatly into a category of reasons why.
Too much mystery. Too many unknowns. Intangibles.
Questions expand. And filter down to the universal…

What is life?
Why am I here?
What happens when I’m not?

~~~

I took a class in college – my one and only Philosophy course – entitled “Explanation” – and was immediately lost in a sea of questions. The professor with his PhD paced back and forth in front of rows of earnest young students like myself.  Trying to absorb his explanations of deep philosophical questions and answers. The existential questions of…life? To me…it might as well have been another language all together. I had no answers for him that I understood, but I offered them anyway on exams….and assigned papers. Fortunately the answers were good enough. To earn a B in the class.
I wonder how it would go if I were taking that class now….

 

 

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #39: Unanswerable

Stories to be told

The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser

 

 

reading on porch
Reading on the porch
age ~ 10

 

 

Stories.

Beginning with…
Mother Goose Rhymes, Grandma Moses’ poems, Little Golden Books, Nancy Drew’s many adventures, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Pippi Longstocking….

All stories I craved as a child. Gobbling them up one after the other.
Why?
Curiosity. Escape. Imagination.
Or maybe because I loved to read.
Storybooks drew me in as nothing else could.

old books

My public elementary school was part of the Scholastic Books program. Students could order paperback books for 25¢ or 35¢ each. Sized just right for a 10 year old with titles such as Encyclopedia BrownDanny Dunn and the Homework MachineJust Plain Maggie. To name just a few. Piled high on tables in the gym on delivery day.  I couldn’t wait.

The school library drew me to its stories as well. Shelves of biographies…”Childhoods of Famous Americans”…were a magnet. Hardcover books mostly about boys (Nathan Hale & Abe Lincoln come to mind), but I did find some about girls. Clara Barton. Helen Keller. Dolly Madison. I didn’t discriminate at the age of 10 or 11 or 12. I read them all. Fascinated by their life stories.

Only famous people had their stories told…at least that’s what I may have assumed. But perhaps it sparked my own urge for story telling. At least in the privacy of my diaries. And letters. Later, the journals kept in college and beyond. Recording my story such as it was. Often painful. And hard to believe. Even upon reading years later.  The telling…written for my eyes only…crucial. Therapeutic. I see that now. Important…even though I certainly wasn’t famous.

Years later I filled notebooks with anecdotes, observations…and stories yet again. But this time about my own children. And our family, as it grew and changed…and then grew and changed some more. A natural continuation of my childhood storytelling. About what happened.

This time, though, joyful. Still striving to capture the essence in a quick pair of sentences…or a paragraph. One page. Maybe two. The setting. The conversation. The humor. The love. The challenges. The delight.

Catching the stories on the page before one day wove into the next. Leaving me breathless to get it on paper. Their imaginations. Their curiosity. And uniqueness.  From foot stomping “do by self” episodes to impromptu conversations about “where do babies come from?” To shopping for clothes. Playing with imaginary basketball teams in the driveway. Getting ready for school. Accidentally shaving off half an eyebrow. Navigating the minefield that is adolescence. How a seven year old plans the future. In her own imaginative way.

Endless stories every day. I wrote when I could. So glad I did.

We are, after all, our stories.

 

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #37: Story