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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Questions Not Asked

In the many discussions and musings in which we moderns engage, it seems like there is almost as many questions not asked as questions asked. Oh, I don't mean mere questions. I mean pertinent, important questions.

Take, for instance, the discussion some time ago about what Paul meant when he said, "There is none who does good; no, not one." I contended he meant what he said. The more popular convention was ... that he didn't. There were a variety of options. He was engaging in hyperbole. He was speaking about a majority. Shades and nuances, but he did not mean "there is none who does good." The question that was not asked, then, was, "Well, what did he mean?" I mean, assuming the hyperbole conclusion, what did Paul mean by that hyperbole? Hyperbole is a tool of the language whereby we make an obvious exaggeration to make an important point. When Mark wrote "the whole city was gathered together at the door" (Mark 1:33), we don't need to assume that he actually meant that the whole city -- every man, woman, child, horse, donkey, house, everyone and everything -- was there. He simply told us that it was a large crowd. That is, his hyperbole told us that it was a really large crowd -- larger than "a large crowd" would convey. So what did Paul mean? He emphasized "no, not one." What did he mean? Well, that question didn't get asked. And the general conclusion seemed to be, "Well, everybody does some good," which simply served to cancel anything that the hyperbole might have meant.

Consider Jesus's command, "If your hand offends you, cut it off." Most people don't get beyond "Well, He didn't mean to actually cut your hand off" to ask, "So, what did He mean?"

What prompted this musing, however, was not a biblical question. It was a societal question. You see, society today has determined that children are important. No, that's not right. Children are absolutely important. Okay, I'm not saying this right. Here's the idea. A hundred years ago (or less) in America a father would have taught his children, "You do what I say." They would have grown up following their father's instructions. No one would have thought, "What kind of a dictator is he?" In my father's day, his father looked over his list of college classes and asked, "Where's your math? Where's your physics? Where are the engineering courses? Go change it." And a month into the semester without even batting an eye, my college-age father obeyed his father and changed his course of studies from forest ranger to engineer. No one thought that was cruel. My father didn't. His father didn't. They actually believed "father knows best". Well, our society is much wiser now. We realize that the real wisdom of the ages is found in the youth. No good father would fail to consult with his children about what he wanted them to do. No good father is a dictator. He must get permission to tell them what to do. Well, okay, we know that doesn't quite make sense, but you get the idea. Fathers do not tell their children what to do. At least consult with them. It's what a good father would do.

And I wonder about the question not asked. If fathers do not know best -- if parents are not the ones to decide what's best for their children -- who is? It appears that the assumption is "the child". That makes sense, right? This little one -- less than 18 years of experience, knowledge, and wisdom -- knows far better than any adult will know, let alone a parent who loves him. Yeah, that makes sense. I recall to mind the Mark Twain quote.
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.
He got it. But our society hasn't figured it out. Kids are not the wise ones. But it appears that, once we've determined that father does not know best, we are not going to ask, "So ... who does?" And the only possible assumption with the question not asked is that the kids obviously know what's best for themselves. We are currently bearing the consequences of this position in our schools and our society.

There are more, I'm sure. Lots more. "We are destroying our environment!" isn't followed with, "So, what should we do?" "You shouldn't take away our benefits!" isn't followed with, "So, where do you recommend we get the money we don't have to pay for your benefits?" "We don't want our government!" isn't followed with, "So ... what government do you want?" It seems common. Robert Frost wrote of the road not taken. I'm concerned about the questions not asked.


Sherry said...

Good questions. What are we going to do about them?

Where's tomatocrazyLovi when you need him? :o) Ha!

Funny, with a mere name and picture change, we didn't even recognize our online friend! I guess we really just don't know each other all that well, do we?

Stan said...

No, we don't. I've often thought -- am pretty much convinced -- that a large number of the lengthy discussions and unpleasant disagreements you see in online conversations would melt away if we were talking face to face.

Marshall Art said...

Here I am, Sherry! Under my own name, too.

Actually, Stan, many of the same discussions I have on blogs, I have or have had in face to face situations. Depending on with whom, I am more or less snarky, more or less respectful, but always looking to hear opinions that answer or address questions I have.

As to getting those answers, there is one lefty blog on my roll where I've been pestering the host since I've been once again visiting, to provide alternatives for the complaints he has for conservatives like me. I haven't been getting anywhere. He says I wouldn't understand anyway. I don't think he likes my questions.