Constructing or Constructed [by Rebecca Hannigan]

Why do we eat oatmeal in the morning and rice at night? Why are human eye colors naturally confined to blues, browns, and greens? Why do I part my hair to one side and not the other?

How many questions do I ask in a day? How many do you ask?

Could you count?

Should you count?

Is this even a question I should ask, if I’m not clearly implying there is an answer?

I don’t have an answer, but I’m asking more questions now, and I think it’s a good thing.


For example. I would like to know:

When we are born, do we start like empty lots of land, like a house that’s slowly and steadily being built: first, the foundation, followed by dry wall, insulation, ceiling, and so on?

Or do we come into the world like a well-worn house in a neighborhood, already equipped with lawn-mowing mandates and particular photo ID pool passes, regulations concerning house paint, driveway width, fence height?

Is our reality under construction, or is it constructed for us?

In many ways, we are born and move through the world like houses, already built. By our parents, peers, interactions. Church leaders. Basketball coaches.

But what happens when we start to look at the foundation, and wonder if the floorboards are the best kind, or if another color on the walls might make more sense?


René Descartes, (whose first name actually means “born again” in French) in his Meditations on First Philosophy, tells us that “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

Wittgenstein, in his Tractatus Logico, says, “When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words…If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it…For doubt can exist only where a question exists, a question only where an answer exists, and an answer only where something can be said.” 

Is there something to be said about our need to question? Is there a reason why we aren’t questioning all the time?

What would our social/spiritual/emotional lives look like if we did question everything?

For further reading, please refer to Padgett Powell, and his novel, composed entirely of questions:


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