Chasing Questions


A good question can be more powerful than a right answer; at least that is my accretion on the matter. Consider this; if a good answer arises from a standard question, might not a better answer have come from a better question? As such, I've always been more interested in the idea of questions than the answers — generally speaking, of course. Chasing questions, when done honestly, can allow for more in-depth exploration, and quite possibly expound upon an answer, so that one can make the best use. I will gladly concede the point that much of the population, are probably more concerned with finding answers than the questions to those answers. So, if you will, let me borrow a line from a song that I enjoy very much. "If it's all the same to you, I'm starting from the ending."

The day before writing this short essay was a day of quiet, contemplative reflection. A day that I take for myself to evaluate many aspects of life. To which a few, recent points have become a more central focus as I've come to understand. One such consideration is my relationship with the questions that I've been asking. And when considering this point — that being of questions — I found that not only was my prior frustration a few weeks before, ill-founded but also short-sighted in my expectations.

Recently, I had taken a road trip around the Great Plains that left me wholly unsatisfied. I have often taken long solo road trips and used those miles as an opportunity to consider questions that I believe I should be asking of myself. However, on this trip, I found myself frustrated almost immediately at my inability to generate new questions as I had done some many times before. I was at a complete loss as I wracked my brain in consideration of questions that I thought I should be asking.

Upon arriving home, I summarized my trip like this. 'I use to take these drives to find questions, turns out I have all the questions, and none of the answers.' In hindsight, a considerable error on my part. What my day of reflection helped me see was my oversight, in the opportunity to assess the quality of the questions that I am asking, rather than looking for new questions.

You see, it was during this trip, that I found, that for the life of me, that I could not generate new questions that I thought I should be asking. Every question I arrived at was one that I felt like I was currently asking. This is certainly not to suggest that I am asking all the questions I should be asking, far from it, if I am honest. And the distinction should also be made that there are also questions that one cannot know to ask, as they have neither the knowledge nor the requisite experience to remember to ask them. How can one know to ask how long to bake a loaf of bread when they do not know the heat source to which they'll have access. But at this moment that I currently occupy, I am content with the scope and degree of the questions that I do ask.

At this point, I suppose it would only be fair to provide some examples to illustrate my assertion to the matter. For this, I will frame my views through the lens of creating works. Let's take, for example, the question, "Why do I  make art?". A simple, standard answer one might give would be, "I make art because it brings me pleasure." And that is good and well, but what if we refined that question. What if we asked, "How do I feel when I make art?" A similar question, but one that I cannot provide an expected, universal answer.

Next, let's take a look at the question, "Why did I make that piece?" To which, one might answer, "I made it because I believe it's beautiful." And instead, we might ask, "What are the merits of this piece I've created?" Again, a question that will dig deeper beyond the surface.

Choosing a different wording isn't the only opportunity I believe we have chase questions, but we can use a question to move through a series of questions quickly. Why did I make that landscape? What is that landscape of? Where is that landscape? What does that landscape say? And the endless stream of thoughts can run in rapid succession and lead to a better understanding of what we've created.

Thus far, I've provided examples, which are referenced in the short term. But it's the long term questions that I find the most interesting. Questions such as; Where do I want my art to take me? Where do I want to take my art? How will I view my current work in ten years? How does what I'm creating now, lead me towards what I want to be creating later?

These types of questions might lead us to believe as though we currently have answers, but I would suggest that we do not. Because of their nature, the fact is that we can't predict the future, we are unable to know the answers. We might have an educated guess or a reasonable assumption as to what our answers might be, but absolute certainty is not possible. They are still valid and valuable considerations to be had but are from complete, true answers. Because as we grow and mature as creative beings, we will learn, gain knowledge and experiences that will shape what we believe to be possible.

As a complement to this matter of question, I suggest we also take into consideration these ideas. I contend that often, questions are used to mitigate risk. Consider the questions, "What should I do?" against the question, "What could I do?" Asking 'should' projects the idea that there is only but one answer, or at the very least, a narrowed scope of answers. But asking 'could' presents the opportunity to explore all the possibilities. And here, again, the degree of honesty, in which we ask these questions, needs to be considered. Have you honestly explored, or taken into consideration all that you 'could' do? If viewed in total truth, there are usually options that were left out. I also believe we should use questions to push ourselves towards difficult answers. What we discover might fascinate us, but we will never know unless we drive ourselves to ask.

In no way, do I suggest that I am any more right, than I may be wrong, but simply that this is my interaction with the subject of asking questions. If anything, I hope that at least something I've said leads you to question me. Though I hope in some way, it leads to pondering questions you ask yourself. I also hold hope that reading this might lead to considering questions that bring about opportunities.

And though my trip was, at that moment, unrewarding, it provided me the value in a short time. It helped me reassess the questions that I've been asking, and shown me that refinement of those questions is paramount. Through that, I'll develop new questions and gain new knowledge that will help me realize future questions that I currently don't know to be asking.