“To be wise is to be eternally curious.”
What was it, grade four? Our teachers smiled coyly, as if they were about to unlock the secrets of the universe before recess. Drink your milk, children. I am about to blow your little minds. Whether the delivery of said secrets was couched in the form of a project, an essay, creative writing, or some other assignment, at some point we picked up six questions that would forever change our lives.
Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
These questions aren’t just a handy method for rounding out an anemic project. They’re the building blocks of curiosity, of creativity. And as we grow, our capacity to answer these questions grows with us.
Who begins with mommy, with daddy, with brother and sister, and grows from there. Babysitter. Teacher. Coach. Girlfriend.
What begins with rudimentary sounds. “Buh” is the name for any old what. Everything is a “Buh” until we discover “muh” and double our money.
Where begins mommy’s arms, then daddy’s and the crib—then the house, our yard, our street, our church, the theatre, Istanbul.
A toddler can’t answer when questions; at least, not with understanding. An emerging grasp of time gives us the power of when, and even then, when is a lifelong journey.
How is just as trippy: understanding how things work is a pretty major slice of we’re aiming at in maturity. It’s the language of cause and effect.
Every single child gets stuck on why for a couple years. It’s a toughie, the metaphysical quandary we pepper the adult world with a million times before the age of five. It’s also why parents lose their minds.
Losing good questions
At about age twelve, we stop asking why (except for the times we demand our parents justify the rules that govern us).
Why? Because adults are supposed to know all things.
At least, we’re supposed to know things that are possible to know. We don’t know who the villain will be in the Amazing Spider Man movie after this one, so it’s okay to ask someone. We don’t know what Prometheus is about, so asking is okay. We don’t know which theatre we’re meeting at, or on which night, so we can ask about where and when.
But adults are supposed to know how, so we don’t dare ask each other that question. Almighty Google has given us an anonymous way to ask everyone how to do something without asking anyone in particular. Thank goodness.
Adults are also supposed to know why—thats kind of like wisdom—so we stop asking pesky why questions. Or, we get just enough why-for to fake our way through all the other stuff. Google isn’t much help with why, so we’re stuck.
I think this is how we lose our childhood wonder and awe. We’re supposed to outgrow it. Stop asking how. Stop asking why. Adulthood demands it.
What a stupid idea.
Jesus says we’re supposed to be little children when it comes to how and why, when it comes to believing and wondering and searching and longing and staring up at a night sky dancing with constellations. I love geeks because geeks keep asking how and why. We write books and draw comics and make toys and film movies and wear graphic t-shirts about our ideas.
Geeks know it’s okay to be curious and to make it a way of life. Geekish curiosity breeds inventors. Composers. Directors. Writers. Explorers. Artists. Leaders. Dreamers. World changers.
Adding more good questions
As powerful as these six questions are, things get even more exciting when you compound them:
Geeks drool over these questions. So do great Christ-followers. Jesus, you’ll remember, asked a lot of questions. Even when people asked him questions, he answered with more questions. So…
Which of the six questions is your favourite to ask? Who? What? Why? Where? When? or how?
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