IF someone were to ask me what would be the most important symbol in all of the human languages combined, my answer would be "?".
That’s right, it’s the question mark. The symbol that punctuates the five "W-H’s" — What, Who, When, How and Why.
Questions, in most situations, are far more significant than any statement because while statements are generally definite, questions are inherently infinite. Statements lay down facts, while questions evoke possibilities.
A question opens up the mind to limitless horizons and allows humans to grow beyond their boundaries. Instead of forcing an answer as the only truth, a question activates the mind of the listener to find their own answers.
It is the lifeblood of creativity.
It is also the tool that challenges conventions (and conventional wisdom), rocks the boat and strikes fear into the hearts of the evil and selfish.
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To those who have things to hide or live in insecurity, questions are their worst enemy. If the truth would expose their wrongdoings, prove them wrong or make them face justice, then questions (or inquests) that seek the true answers would destroy them.
To those who live right and believe in truth, justice and good values, questions are their most powerful ally.
The fact is, we don’t ask enough questions. Most of us in Asia have grown up being taught never to ask too many questions. Our sensitive and deeply rooted culture has conditioned us to accept what is told as the truth and put our faith in conventions, out of "respect for authority", be it parents, teachers or elders.
From childhood days all the way to adulthood, questioning a convention is akin to "derhaka", and we would be branded as a bad apple, a destructive element and an outcast to society. We’re expected to toe the line, fulfil expectations of others and do as we’re told.
There are several problems with this. One, when we limit ourselves to the conventions of the past, we’re bound by it. We’re shackled by other people’s expectations and old ideas, and we can’t create, grow and progress.
If the Wright brothers never questioned the conventions of their time, we’d still be limited to travelling by land and sea.
If people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Mahathir, Barack Obama, Datuk Lat, Datuk Seri Tony Fernandez and all the others probably branded "crazy" or "weird" by their peers never defied conventions, imagine the world and the country we live in today.
Two, let’s think about this: conventions (facts/lessons/advice/expectations) are set by other people. Whether you get the conventions in books, newspapers, classrooms, the Internet or from advice, they are all opinions of other people.
Who ever said people, no matter who they are, are always right? Who ever said that when people present their opinions, they’re only guided by purely altruistic motivations and not influenced by greed, irrational fears, erroneous assumptions or selfish motives?
Facts are actually opinions. Reality is really, just our perception.
A few hundred years ago, it was fact that the world was flat. It was, without a doubt, the sun, the moon and the whole universe revolved around Earth.
Now, thanks to a few "crazies" who dared to think bigger, we all know how miniscule we are in relation to the constantly expanding universe around us.
So, who are we to say that the "facts" we tell our kids today won’t be a laughable fallacy in the future?
And three, questions beget more questions, therefore encouraging us to learn even more. Yes, there is indeed bliss in ignorance. Many of us would be happy not knowing the many other sides of life or the other parts of the world, which are often ugly, painful and beyond comprehension.
But is ignorance really bliss? Would not knowing keep us from harm? Is the saying "What we don’t know won’t hurt us" really true? Would bad things and bad people give us a miss just because we choose to ignore them?
A whole lot of people have lost so much or got into so much trouble just because they decided to look away or ignore the world around them. Just because they decided to accept whatever "reality" is placed before them and not ask questions like "Could it happen to me?", "Is this really real?" or "Could this be a problem later on?".
Question everything. While we’re conditioned to avoid questioning sensitive things like social mores and issues involving religion, the fact is, they’re probably the things we SHOULD be questioning the most, as our lives are so deeply influenced and affected by these beliefs.
The thing about "beliefs" is that it could be either one of two: "faith" or "trust". While both originate from the same root concept of "believe", the two are infinitely different.
Faith is, by definition, accepting a proposition fully, without question, even if the proposition seems logically unreasonable.
Trust, however, is accepting a proposition only after considering the reasons, risks, history, motivations and probabilities that support it. In other words, trusting means we only believe something after thinking about it.
If someone, or something, presents to us a proposition that we’re expected to believe and apply in our lives, then wouldn’t it be wiser to think about it first instead of blindly putting our faith in it? If what they say is the truth, then they shouldn’t fear us thinking about what they say, as they would ultimately be proven right anyways, yes?
Words and lessons are passed down by people of the past, whether they are in books, pictures or spoken, so, seeing how people are fallible and prone to making mistakes, wouldn’t it be wiser not to accept them so readily?
On that note, of course, I’m not saying DEFY everything. That’s just doing a James Dean and rebelling without a cause (which is, somewhat, akin to blind and pointless faith).
There is naturally a lot of wisdom in learning from other people’s experiences. It would be stupid to ignore past lessons and history. I’m saying QUESTION everything. Ask. Think. Feel. Apply. As they say, “The Truth will set you free”.
Learn from lessons provided by other people found in books, classrooms and advice. But the trick is to find your own truth, define your own answers using your God-given reasoning abilities and human sensibilities.
In fact, don’t simply accept my opinions written here. Think, and feel free to disagree. Only then would you fully appreciate the answers and chart your own destiny.
The Answer, is in Questions.