Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Afraid to ask "Why"

Every day, I become more and more convinced that people are afraid to ask the “Why” question once it takes them beyond a certain level of depth. Why? Well, many of us were told as little children, "Because I said so." when we asked our parents these questions. But even those that don't carry such baggage, or those who rebel against such mindsets still seem almost satisfied at only getting their “How” or "What" questions answered. I suspect that the “why” questions challenge us too much, requiring us to change who we are and to acknowledge another “who”.

I see this in the national discourse on social, political, ethical, religious and other controversial issues.

Take the abortion issue for example. It is framed in terms of “Pro Life” and “Pro Choice”. I hear the discourse sounding like “Abortion is my right. Its my body.” “No, abortion is immoral. It is killing an innocent life.”

What I don’t hear is WHY is abortion your right or WHY is abortion the taking of an innocent life. If one goes deeper, the real issue is that the “Pro Life” groups think that the fetus is a life because of theological, philosophical and even scientific reasons. The “Pro Life” thinkers see a conformity of their worldview with a tangible reality. On the other hand, the “Pro Choice” people seem to view the question of whether or not the fetus is a life to be on the same plane as religious/spiritual issues. They see faith issues to be issues not to be discerned through the dialectic ( process, but to be chosen based upon utilitarianism ( or worse yet, what feels good. They see faith to be purely volitional (, hence their emphasis on the word “choice”.

As a result, both sides speak past each other. The “Pro Lifers” keep talking about the fetus being a life, but the “Pro Choice” folks don’t care because of this post-modern view on matters of faith.

If the debate could get at this deeper epistemological ( level, a true polemical ( discourse could occur.

My point is not to defend my Pro Life perspective, but it is to propose the idea that so much of our discourse and thinking doesn’t get down to the suppositional ( level.

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"Knowledge is a deadly friend when no one knows the rules." - King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man

Our technological and scientific understandings of the world are advancing, but the philosophical and theological worldviews necessary to frame these advances seem to be stagnant or even regressing. If we don’t understand the very purpose of our existence, we become like a person who buys a guitar, but never learns how to play the instrument. Or worse, we become like a child given a gun.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, only the right questions. I believe that philosophical and theological advancement can occur only when are hearts are right (humility) so as to equip us with seeing the truth as opposed to winning the argument. This is the nexus of character and education. Until we are right with ourselves, we can never be right with the world.

On the T.V. show American Idol, during the early rounds, we see so many people who are deluded into thinking that they possess a talent that they do not have. In every instance, I have seen people who let their desires, agendas, dreams, ‘I believe I can fly’ mentality, obscure reality.

‘Believe In Yourself’ is the mantra of post-modernity, however as G.K. Chesterton pointed out in his book “Orthodoxy”, the people who believe in themselves are in insane asylums. Hitler also believed in himself.

Looking for logical inconsistencies on the other side of our arguments might be a good way to prove that someone is not a rational thinker, or a way to show that the argument is flawed, but don’t mistake logical consistency as a truth detector. One can be logical and be wrong.

I have seen logical consistency prop up both sides of conflicting arguments. Holding to Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction, I cannot conclude that both sides are right within the same context.

No, truth seems to be found at a deeper level. Truth is not obscured so much because of what we think, it is obscured by how and why we think it. Furthermore, how and why we think anything, is determined by who we are. When are hearts are pure, it is like looking through prescription eyeglasses that have just been cleaned. A world that was formerly out of focus, becomes clear.

As I have attempted (and I fail more times than I succeed) to go through this objectivity process, I find that I’m driven by the question of “why”? I have found that if I ask the question of “Why” enough, I eventually get to the question of “Who”. And the “who” that I have discovered is God himself.

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