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The better the question, the better the answer

When I was still a college student, my mentor (Dr. Armando Vivante) consistently decided not to answer my questions, saying I didn’t know what I was asking because, had I known it, I would never asked what I asked. It took me many years to understand the wisdom of that approach.

That memory came back to my mind when I recently read (where?) that the size of answers we get in our lives is determined by the size of the questions we ask. If we ask irrelevant questions, we are going to receive irrelevant answers, if we get an answer at all.

Contrary to that, if we ask significant and comprehensive questions, then we will receive significant and comprehensive answers. Unfortunately, I think we live at a time when questions are no longer asked to receive answers, but precisely to prevent answers. However, that doesn’t mean we should not ask questions.

One of the best examples of asking questions for the purpose of advancing knowledge (and not just to confirm what we already know or to point out mistakes in what others say) is, of course, the questions Socrates used to ask, causing consternation, and rightly so, among those talking with Socrates.

Those were honest, multidimensional questions forcing those talking to each other to discover aspects not yet discovered in what we say or believe, as well as becoming aware of unanticipated consequences of the ideas and beliefs we blindly follow.

It is interesting to know that, after questioning so many people, Socrates concluded that wisdom consisted in acknowledging his own ignorance. Today, however, we openly confuse wisdom and ignorance and arrogant ignorance is proclaimed as wisdom.

For that reason, our questions are smaller and smaller regarding expectations and reach. Those are questions no looking for answers, much less unanticipated options. The questions are now unidimensional and therefore all the answers are only “Yes” or “No”, “correct” or “incorrect”, acceptable or unacceptable, with nothing in between.

So, what would happen if we were to stop “downloading information” and decide to be open to true dialogue, refusing to participate in alternating monologues where nobody has any intention of listening to the other person?

What would happen if we could once again ask questions of such a size that the answers could not be anticipated or calculated, but they need to be created in the context of the same dialogue that created the questions?

Perhaps we will then understand something my mentor told me many years ago and that only later understood: the question is more important that the answer, and if you know what you are asking, then you already have the answer. But we don’t even know what to ask.

At the same time, in our everyday lives, we keep asking small questions and getting small answers, those answers that pretend than just a few seconds (yes, few seconds) we will understand complex issue. But, our “everyday life” is just a fiction we create precisely to avoid asking big questions.

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