Curiouser and Curiouser

Silhouette of a man in a business suit giving a shrug with a question mark

My oldest turns four in a few weeks. It’s been one heavenly ride thus far. I refrain from using the other “h” word even though it’s shorter and more apropos. There are innumerable lessons that I should have learned along the way, that I clearly didn’t, as is evidenced by my second son, who is goosestepping down the same terrible path set by his trailblazing brother. He turns two this week. It isn’t all bad though. I have learned a lesson or two, here and there. Sadly, none included patience or wisdom, ask my wife. No, those prayers have gone unanswered. The big G-O-D must be on another frequency, it’s a big universe after all, some say infinite.

Okay so let me not be too pessimistic. There is at least one thing that I’ve learned in my nearly four years of being a dad, and that is, what it means to be human. Quality over quantity right? Well, how’s that, you say? How do you know that? What does it mean? My response is that you are asking the wrong question. The important question is, “Why?” I misled you, I know.

When my oldest was born, he came into this world fully-hatched. His bright blue eyes were wide open from the start and he moved his head around the room looking for the nearest source of milk. I wasn’t it but he stared at me anyway as if to ask, “Got milk?” We stared at each other until I blinked, he’d seen right through me, and I, the poser, was afraid, very afraid. I wasn’t ready to be a dad and we both knew it. Mom fared much better. She had the milk.

Every day from that point forward, the little man watched, listened, tasted, touched, and smelled, learning, waiting for his moment to verbalize the obvious quandary that was unfolding before my very eyes and to which I was oblivious.

“Why?”

There were no warning shots. It was a direct hit, the first of an endless volley. I tried my best to answer but of course he had a follow-up.

“Why?”

At this point I should tell you that I am an attorney. As the old adage goes, an attorney should never ask a question to which he/she doesn’t already know the answer. He knew the answer and it would only take a couple of more whys on cross-examination to get to it. The answer: I didn’t really know. I acted like, spoke like, and honestly believed that I knew, but I didn’t. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I think I know a lot, but really how much of what I know is just a belief, something I’ve convinced myself about because I grew wary of asking why?

I challenge all of you to take anything that you think you know and tell it to a toddler and see how many whys you can get through before you realize that you don’t actually know what the hell you are talking about. When does this horrible transformation happen to us? When do we lose our way? All toddlers ask why and before that all babies explore their world through trial and error: this tastes good, that tastes bad, I pulled on that, it fell, and that guy who I look nothing like just lost his mind, I guess it was important to him, what’s that crazy dance he’s doing, he’s holding his foot, I can put my foot in my mouth, see.

They are all curious, thirsty for knowledge, something that might go back to a certain woman and a certain tree, an act for which she should be praised. The big guy made her that way right? She did follow the master plan by making her decision to freely choose to eat the fruit, all of which was spurned by her curiosity which was innate…(I’m still asking why here).

The point is curiosity! We all have it but then somewhere along the line we stop asking why and start taking someone else’s word for it, or worse yet, we start taking our own word for it. (That’s called being full of shit and I’m a five pound bag with ten pounds of the stuff!) So why do we stop? Are we afraid of the answers? Are we afraid that we’ll never know for sure? I don’t know. All I know is that as far as I know, and that won’t get you very far, humans are the only creatures on this planet that want to know why. That question is the very essence of who, what, and most importantly, why we are. Maybe one day I’ll have a better answer, then again maybe one day I’ll have my patience and wisdom. Until then, I’ll keep answering my Number One’s questions as best I can and when I’m spent, I’ll turn the tables on him and see what he comes up with. Number Two is closing in fast but I’m not too worried about that because mom ran out of milk a long time ago, so she has some explaining to do.

© J. Manuel Writes

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