Why? – A Dialogue
Why? Why should I do it?
Because They said so.
And who are They?
They are your Authority Figures, in the shape of your parent, your teacher, employer, minister, officer, judge, ruler – or even your spouse (remember that rash promise to “Love, honor, and obey”?).
A powerful bunch, I must say – But what is THEIR authority?
It resides in Laws, Doctrines, Holy Writings, Custom, Tradition – all ultimately backed, if necessary, by the one Authority nobody can argue with – the Big Stick, sometimes fondly known as Brute Force.
But doesn’t all that depend on some kind of suspension of common sense – some system of belief, reverence, faith, submission, acceptance?
Maybe, in the short term. But in the long run, what it depends on is God, or The Gods.
But all I want is what must be behind everything: a simple Reason Why.
Forgive me, but on hearing those words one cannot help being reminded of the Tennyson verse in which they are forever enshrined (or some would say embalmed):
“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.”
Wasn’t that a poem about a great military blunder?
Yes, but it can also be a great blunder to question commands. As a rule, we all have to assume that whoever is giving orders knows what he’s doing, and – more to the point – knows more than you do about the whole situation.
There are two nasty names for inappropriately asking Why: Treason and Heresy. True, some lucky people do get away with it. Martin Luther, despite openly questioning the authority of the Pope, with his famous List of 95 “theses” nailed to a church door in 1517, managed to live another 29 years, and died in his own bed. George Washington did even better, defying his King and becoming the “Father” of a whole new country.
Let’s get back to Reason.
Gods (and Generals) don’t give reasons. If you want reasons, you have to go to another God, called History.
Well, what does History have to say about the question of Why?
What History says is that, more often than not, the people who ask Why are punished.
What kind of punishment can there be, just for asking Why?
It can range all the way from a mild verbal reprimand to the most extremely cruel and painful tortures imaginable.
All of it ending, I suppose, in death?
Yes, strangely enough, death is still considered the worst of all penalties, even though it ends all suffering.
But if asking for reasons is so heavily penalized, surely there must also be rewards for not seeking reasons?
Oh, there are, and they can be very great, in terms of happiness, riches, and acclaim.
And I suppose that means no illness, or aging?
No, I’m afraid it doesn’t work quite like that.
You mean those who question, and those who don’t question, all end up the same way?
History would have it so. That may be why some of the other gods are still so popular.
Well, the biggest God on today’s charts is called Science. Science looks at the question of Why as a matter of Cause and Effect. Every Cause has an Effect, and every Effect must have a cause.
Sounds like the old Chicken-and-Egg problem. But there must be an answer here. There must have been some original chicken – some very first Cause.
Yes, and it used to have some very holy name, like Jehovah, or Allah. But now Science almost flippantly calls it the Big Bang.
So the answer to “Why must I take out the garbage?” has something to do with some explosion a few billion years ago?
Only if you worship the Gods of Science. Otherwise you can pin it on the Gods of the Health Department.
None of this is very satisfying.
Oh, is satisfaction all you want? Have you tried Love? According to numerous songs,
Love is Nature’s way of giving
A reason to be living
But there are also those who find all the satisfaction they need in such ordinary pursuits as travel, sport, gambling, politics, hobbies – even warfare.
In that case, satisfaction is not enough. I want an answer to the question of WHY that will put a sensible end to this whole frustrating conversation.
There is such an answer, but you may not like it.
Well, what is it? I can’t take any more of this nonsense.