The principal question of human existence, of moving forwards, of gaining a better understanding of the world.
Tell Me Why (Answers to hundreds of questions boys and girls ask) is a book published originally in 1965 by Arkady Leokum.
The copy I have dates from 1980.
It was a gift from my Uncle Bernard and Aunty Elise.
Both now gone.
Bernard was my father’s brother.
He was tall with thick glasses.
He had diabetes and smoked.
Elise was his partner then wife.
All I remember of her is her shining glasses, permed blonde hair and smile.
The life I have lived with moving around has led to most of what might have been stored in the loft as childhood possessions, gone.
I still have the book.
As a child I didn’t have many books although our house was full of them. They were mostly for the grown-ups.
I would read then re-read my illustrated Old Testament then various editions of Oor Wullie and The Broons.
Interestingly, my daughter who has lots of books, both for young and older, tends to watch then re-watch American dramas and comedy shows. I wonder if there is something in that, the repetition.
Nowadays as an adult I struggle to watch anything twice, especially movies, and, the only book I have re-read recently has been Kafka on the Shore.
None of this is the point, or where I was heading.
A while ago I touched on the concept of the Grand Unified Theory – originally the Einstein ideal that would bring together quantum and classical mechanics (whatever that means), or, rather, a theory of everything.
At different times I feel I am closer to gaining an understanding, at others, I have never been further away.
For whatever reason, Covid times have resulted in lots of this kind of thinking.
Tell me why?
Why do you do that?
Why did you do that?
Why did they?
The aspiration to gain an understanding of the behaviours or actions of others is central.
I see a car overtaking on a narrow road, precarious and dangerous behaviour and although the action is one of those I hate, at least I get-it. He (usually) is in a hurry, he is impatient, he doesn’t see that overtaking doesn’t save time, doesn’t get you anywhere more quickly, wastes fuel, jeopardizes the lives of others, and so on.
Around 20 years ago they changed the name of A&E departments to Emergency Departments. This was an aspiration to influence the understanding within the population at large that accidents don’t happen – emergencies do.
The theory being, if people are more mindful, fewer accidents will happen, and, oh, we are so busy with austerity and all that, only come to us if it’s an emergency.
The message did not get through.
(As successful as ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’)
The aspiration to create a deterministic pathway of care has been a failure.
Tell me why you voted for Brexit/the Tories/Trump.
Tell me why you didn’t have the vaccine.
Tell me why you smoke/drink/over-eat/under-exercise.
It is as if there is a simple explanation.
A Grand Unified Theory.
Tell Me Why the book, allocates a page per question and answer. If only life were as straightforward.
Some people have given-up. They have pulled-down the shutters and stopped trying, others are going on.
Tell me why you ignore the environment.
Tell me why you ignore the suffering of humans and animals.
Tell me why you read the Sun / the Mail / the Mirror.
It is all part of a stereotyped mess.
A Classical Mess.
Go look that up.