“But why not?” asks my 4 year old, doesn’t matter regarding what, it’s his classic reply to anything that I tell him not to do. “Please stop eating grass!” I yell out. “But why not?” is his quick reply.
As I drone about the dangers of eating herbaceous plants, not to mention poisonous weeds, he flits to another activity. At 4 he is curious about anything that moves and catches his fancy, already he has deciphered most of life’s riddles (or so he thinks!).
As I walk him to kindergarten and hear him talk I am amazed at the labels he has generated. The adventure playground, that’s a playground that caters to older kids, is ‘dangerous’. ‘Office’ is where people go to when they leave our home, even if they dropped in for a visit on their way shopping. The police would catch you if you crossed the road without adult supervision! What’s more hilarious is to ask him what happens if the police ‘caught’ you. “You shouldn’t be naughty so they won’t catch you.”
He obviously hadn’t worked that out, his little mind was too innocent to work out the nasty stuff. However, it got me thinking, so this tendency to label, to work out how things work, to make sense of the ways of the world is an innate tendency.
A 4 year old from a loving family, vigilant parents, protective community, and a safe neighbourhood has a need to work out his boundaries, a strong urge to keep himself safe, and the resilience of ‘but why’.
So it got me thinking, why do we have this need to figure things out, is this what makes us human, the power of ‘why’? Rebellion is birthed by why and it is the fundamental force of change for many a government, dictatorship and evil regime. Discovery, invention and evolution all trace their humble beginnings to a simple why.
Why do we question? Why can’t we let things be or like so many of the new age gurus drone on and on, stop worrying about what can not, is not and will not. The reason is plain and simple, we have been engineered to use our brains, as proposed by René Descartes, ‘Cogito ergo sum’, ‘I think therefore I am”.
The ability of thought is fundamental to possessing consciousness, and until the day we die we will do two things, breathe and think. I doubt whether we can choose to do them, in the sense that when we stop doing them we will be essentially dead (physically or mentally), we can however, choose the type of breathing or thinking.
So I hope that my son never stops asking why, as annoying as it may be currently for I know that it is the hallmark of our human spirit. It probably was the reason Adam and Eve got banished from the garden of Eden, for they couldn’t help but wonder why they weren’t supposed to eat the apple.
Hmm, perhaps sometimes we should just let things be?