I was thinking this morning about the nature of questions while watching the sunrise. I was just finishing my first powerful cup of coffee (made from a dark roast of the local Michoacan beans) when it occurred to me that we all need to be more thoughtful before posing a question, any question.This line of thinking was the result of a conversation that I had just a couple of days prior concerning some rather rude questions about my new shoes.

My mind wandered back to meeting Simon, a young Italian traveler I met while crossing Lake Atitlan on a ferry in Guatemala back in ’93.  We hungout for the weekend in the village of San Pedro sharing a cheap cinderblock hotel room along with a British mountain biker by the name Michael.

Simon confided during that weekend that he liked the fact that when I first made a conversational overture that it wasn’t in the nature of a question. Like, where are from? How long have you been traveling? Where have you been? In other words, the usual traveler’s bullshit one hears when first meeting someone while on the road. And we all know that sometimes a person asks a question not to get the answer but to use that question as a pretense to deliver their boring soliloquy.

Instead I had pointed to a man precipitously perched on the steep side of a volcano working the soil. He remarked that the nature of our first conversation was rooted in the present and involved things other than ourselves. I am grateful that he pointed this out to me because I wasn’t conscious of it at the time. And forever since I have been grateful for this lesson.

Then I got to thinking about the nature of questions in the true physical sense remembering something that J. H. Wheeler once said, “The deepest lessons of quantum mechanics may be that reality is defined by the questions that we put to it.” And from that mysteriously insightful statement I thought how the very nature of the manner in which we employ questions should hold us to a certain degree of accountability.

“Who knows where a conversation may end? As ours is doing with another mystery, which will on investigation, reveal yet another concealed truth.” So tagging onto what J. Hart wrote in her bestselling novel ‘Damage’, I believe that conversations should be approached soberly and thoughtfully. And to blurt out questions, especially to a stranger, is irresponsible and speaks to the opposite of what was intended, namely an unengaged indifference.

Example, I was back in the US a month ago and a man that I was just introduced to asked me, ‘So you got off the bike?’ These were literally the first words out of his mouth. ‘So you got off the bike?’

How do you answer that?

So I said, ‘Yes, I got off the bike.’

There was some background noise but the next thing he said to me was also poised as a question and was something like, ‘You didn’t like the bike (ride)?’

Someone interrupted and suggested that I should fill this person in on the 800 miles of pedaling that I had just completed the day before.

I was more than a little annoyed that this guy’s two questions, due to their brevity, required an out of band translation as to what he really trying to say. But I dutifully gave the guy a few sentences about my bike ride across the UP of Michigan, then down the LP of Michigan, then the frightful stint on US 23 down through Ohio before calling it quits at the Kentucky state line.

So the next words out of this guy’s mouth was, ‘So you got tired (of pedaling)?’

I was thinking, ‘Thanks for not listening and thank you for being such a conversational bore.’

And yes, I was more than a little pissed at the complete thoughtlessness of his line of inquiry.

My terse reply back was, “No. I loved the pedaling. It was the road that kicked my ass.’ All the meanwhile my left foot and leg were making hunching motions like they wanted to put a sandal up his ass.

What ever happened to ‘Don’t speak unless you can improve on silence?’

 

 

 

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