“Question everything. Every stripe, every star, every word was spoken. Everything.” – Ernest Gaines
People took this quote too seriously. Look at the kind of Google searches we are doing these days –
- How do I get home? Monthly Searches – 49,500
Well, people get an answer in the form of a box which asks “Where’s home?”
- Are aliens real? Monthly Searches – 49,500
Common NASA is working on that but some of us are impatient
- Does farting burns calorie? Monthly Searches – 49,500
There are better ways to burn calories. By the way, the claim that it burns 68 calories is wrong
- When will I die? Monthly Searches – 49,500
Who knew google will be able to foretell the future
How come we (or rather our questioning ability) reached to this point?
To understand this let’s go a few centuries back...or maybe many centuries back
Tibetan Buddhist monks have this daily ritual of debate—where one monk continually questions another monk, often on esoteric points of Buddhist thought. The impressive aspect of this practice is how the monks use this method of questioning/answering to hone their skills in logic and to probe complex questions
Socrates is well known for using questioning to probe the validity of an assumption, analyse the logic of an argument, and explore the unknown. Questions were a means to educate his students by drawing out their understanding of a subject and then leading them to discover a set of logical conclusions instead of lecturing them on what is true or false
Even in the Hindu culture, there is a dedicated Prashna-Upanishad, one of the earliest of the Upanishad texts that serve as a foundation of Hinduism, pupils pose six great questions to a wise teacher
We asked great questions which resulted in brilliant answers and then more amazing follow-up questions. People were proud (in certain cases egoistic) with their question-asking ability.
The trend continues, Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, was able to create a vast empire basis his observational and questioning abilities. As mentioned in some of the texts, the questions he asked were to identify the behaviour of nearby civilizations, understand the topography, borrow the strong points of the defeated nations and always questioning his own administration current effectiveness and measures needed to improve it.
And the trend continues as we questioned the centricity of Earth in a planetary system. Then we questioned the prevalent flat topography of Earth.
The art of questioning was even present in the 1800s where Newton’s question of “Why Apple fell to the ground” lead him to propose gravitation equation.
Then in the 20th century, Bank of America has had a massive win with its “Keep the Change” program that rounds up customers’ debit card purchases to the next highest dollar, sweeping the difference to a personal savings account. The patented program is breathtakingly simple, for both the bank and the customer.
The question which might have kicked off that campaign could have been:
“How can customers save money without thinking, planning, or clearly foregoing consumption?”
And the last I checked, the art of questioning is still there, but it’s getting rare to such an extent that we need to call it an “Art”.
It is so rare that we have to go through a 3500-word post (or 6-short posts series if you prefer) to understand and practice this art of questioning.
You can tell a man is clever by his answer. You can tell a man is wise by his questions
This post is part of the Art of Asking Questioning. Other segments of this series -