I have often heard people ask impossible questions. They especially come out when things are getting really bad. And by bad I mean something is happening that we don’t like. For instance, when a relative is dying, we often think of it as a bad thing. Or maybe losing a job. For some people it might be not winning the lottery. Whatever it is, things are not going the way that we (as individuals) wanted or expected. The bad, unexpected events lead to the most difficult questions.
Are we foolish for asking tough questions? I have decided that most of the time, I am. I mean, what is the use of asking a question that has something to do with a non-entity, like cold?
Cold is the absence of heat. Where there is no heat, the is cold. You could also say that cold can be defined by a scale of the heat. For instance, if the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit in your house, you would want to increase the heat. The temperature of the heat is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is far too low for you to be comfortable, and therefore, it is cold.
Now let’s say you are woken up by the rays of sunlight flickering into your room one morning. From the cocoon of your covers, things are a very pleasant 80 degrees F, and by the way the sun is looking, it is going to soon be the same outside. You are also in shorts and a tank top under the covers (in case you are wondering what you are wearing). So you slip out of the covers, and then it hits you. You are very, very cold. Sure the sun is out, but inside it is fifteen degrees below freezing because your freezer is malfunctioning. You become very angry at the unexpected cold. The first thing from your lips as you leap back under the covers is:
“Why is it so cold?”
Easy enough for this question, at least with a little investigation. But the funny thing is, we ask this sort of question all of the time when the plain facts are before us. Somehow the facts are not enough to answer it.
Questions on a relative scale are curious. They are situational, temporal, and have a lot to do with how one sees the world. That is how I, from San Diego, can go outside and shiver, while someone in Illinois experiencing the same temperature, can put on shorts and flip-flops. Mind you there are some absolutes with cold; people cannot survive below freezing temperatures for long without clothing or shelter.
Most of the time that I stop and ask questions, either aloud or to myself, I am asking questions that come back to this relative scale. And they are often questions I can’t really answer. Why aren’t I paid as much as Bill? Fred is a great person, so why did he get cancer? Why can’t I be as romantic as George is to his wife? When do I get to buy a bigger home for my family? These are the sticking questions, the lingering questions, the ones that i have learned to ask. And to think upon. Most of the time they make me unhappy.
The weird thing is, sometimes I am convinced that I am not asking myself these questions, but the world around me is. Just like the cold, this other social entity is poking holes in my existence like a woodpecker. Except it is not my existence, but my joy. Or my hope for something better, often the very thing the question begs.
We live in a culture of these relative distinctions as human beings. In some places it is racial identity (darker or lighter), others it is wealth (richer or poorer), still others it is language (clearer, or well, not). In America, we come back to money, fame, and power or success. Even worse for us Americans, we as a society have figured out how to constantly reset the scale. If the standard seems unattainable, or high, good – because it is. It is like we all have become San Diego natives who struggle with the 50 degree weather and cannot keep our focus off of it, while the rest of the world is putting on their summer clothes and celebrating.
And we continue to ask, “Why are we so cold?”