The Most Dangerous Pursuit

I love analysis.  I may love it too much.  I do love it too much.  But it serves me well in my career as a technical mutt; I can suss out the root causes of problems and try to place a framework or taxonomy around a system to better understand and interact with it.  Analysis at some level is a process of reduction and refinement, a process of finding patterns and invariability to attach a “what” to things.  It is ultimately a process of discovering entities and illuminating their important relationships.

But once you have the what, there is in your arsenal the remainder of your primary interrogatives: who, when, where, how, and why.

What happened?

Who did it?

When did it happen?

Where did it happen?

How did it happen?

Why did it happen?

And lo! behold how the danger grows as we move down this enumeration from who toward how and why.  Naturally in the business and political arena all questions must be seriously entertained; however, once we enter into our personal lives all these interrogatives remain safe to ask but one: whyWhy as interrogative morphs into inquisition, forcing us down a very dangerous and very real rabbit-hole that will likely terminate with our, well, termination.

For myself, I believe asking why is a question best left to historians and sadists.  Yes; certainly it is a useful tool for limited introspection, but little has ever been gained and much more lost in asking why of another person.  The seed that most often germinates into the question why is an emotional inability to accept the what, not understand the why.  Someone did something we did not like or otherwise made us uncomfortable; a cosmic injustice occurred that does not meet with our world view and model.  We want a why, we need a why to re-establish balance with this schism between what we believe should be and what is.

It is not mere grammatical convenience that I used the word “should be.”  Should is a strong marker for a judgment taking place, it is the sign of a critical state of mind; judgment walls us from our ability to love (accept) the world around us.  Asking why is promulgated by the belief that the universe operates on reason.  Yes, the universe operates on mathematical laws but that is not reason, but just happenstance of a mathematical convenience with no consciousness necessary.  Why does not apply to the universe: it just is.  But why wants to dig into the conscious and subconscious motives of the what, the what being that we were hurt by and the need to bring the external world and our perceptions of said world back into alignment.  Why is fueled by our need to heal a hurt, but is retarded by our inability to accept the source of the hurt, the what.  Sadly, asking why more often than not is an attempt to re-align the external world to fit our perception of what should be, not the opposite; which is to say we ask why to warp reality to our expectations, not the rational inverse.

But.  But, indeed.  Asking why is born of a real and vital need to both heal and safe-guard ourselves against future occurrences of the same what to avoid a repeat of the current hurt.  And this is no small thing nor a thing we should ignore.  But while the motive is noble, the means is better served with a different question.  Instead of asking asking why it happened, I have found that asking how it could be different gets to the root of the real need and motive.  How could the what be different next time?  Asking why will not change the past; the hurt has happened.  We have a simple decision: accept what is or not.  Trust you I, choosing the latter (not) will end in you broken on the rocks of reality, a reality indifferent to the devastation wrought by your futile, fatalistic rally to change it, to change what is.  While we cannot change what was, we can help influence what might be.  And that is no harder than accepting the past, looking from the perspective of our acceptance rooted in the now, and facing toward the future asking: How can tomorrow be better?

Author: Ward

I’m the creator and operator of this little corner of the internets, writing on all things related to art and more specifically my experiences trying to figure this whole thing out. I guess I’m trying to figure out life, too, but mostly I just post about art here.

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