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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


June 1st, 2018
This Episode references Episode 30: The Only Tool.  If you’d like to fully understand the reference, best to check out that episode first.

What is that question that children are always asking?


. . .

But why?

. . .

But why?

Each answer we give is a layer of understanding, and a child is quick to whip out The Why-Shovel and dig a little deeper.  It is the most basic example of THE ONLY TOOL we have – the question – sharpening itself.  In lieu of the skill of forming a better question, merely repeating the question requests a better answer.  It sharpens the answer in lieu of a sharper question.

This is a fucking superpower.

A superpower that eventfully gets stomped on by some exhausted, overworked, adult who is giving the quickest, easiest answer in the hopes that the questioning will stop. This is understandable because it is just that much more difficult to pause, listen deeply and thoughtfully respond when perpetually exhausted, overworked and looking for relief. 

The irony is that one deeply thoughtful answer about the subject eliminates the need for answering 100 questions. Each shallow answer is poked at with another question, because the answer did not go deep enough. Hence the recursive question: but why?

Instead we teach children to answer good questions with quick shallow answers. Monkey see, monkey do. And this behavior says: look, there are good deep questions, but you’ll get by just fine if you just answer them quickly and move on – it really doesn’t matter if you answer it well, just get it over with.

No wonder they grow up and do exactly the same thing to the new generation of children.

Perhaps what is really lost is the opportunity to teach the child how to think.

Somehow the kid can see the shallowness of the answer and so asks again. The kid is looking for something more interesting, something for the brain to chew on.

What if we answer a question with a question? What a question.

What if the child is looking for more than just an answer? What if the child is looking for a way to think?

What is the method of thinking we impart? A quick shallow answer will do just fine. Don’t bother putting thought into it.

Most all of us experienced this. Whether it be a parent, or a teacher who was particularly poor in their ability to choose a profession. We have all had plenty of influences that say: look, you don’t need to be thoughtful, you don’t need to dig deep, you don’t need a better question or a better answer. You’ll get by just fine without any of that.

What if for a moment we entertain the possibility of going back to our child selves and changing the way that all went down?

What would have been a better response when you asked that inevitable question: but why?

“Well what do you think?”

“What if I weren’t here, how would you try to find the answer?”

“Are there any experiments you can do to try and find out?”

“I don’t know, so let’s find out.”

But that can’t happen. We can’t go back in time. We can’t re-rear ourselves to our liking. Often we see the next generation as the hope and opportunity and then simply make the same mistakes based on those age-old examples. 

But what about who we are now? 

What about the questions we ask ourselves today?

Can we apply some of this childish recursion to ourselves? And to our own lives?

The gift is that we have the power to answer these questions.

We just need to resurrect the habit of asking.

If we could muster just a fraction of that childish recursion, how far might it push our understanding on any given subject? How might it open up the possibilities?

We are so quick to say: I can’t. . .

What if we replace that with:

Why not?


What if?


Well, let’s find out.

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Podcast Ep. 47: Childish Recursion: The Why-Shovel

Tinkered Thinking

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