In my last post, @periwinklerat told me that she had enough of my “deep thoughts” and that she just wanted to know how the drink tasted, which got me thinking why I end up thinking deeply about tangential issues. This, by the way, goes all the way back to my childhood. I specifically remember this one incident when I was in kindergarten, where my sister got really annoyed by the fact that I asked too many “why” questions. I silently asked myself, “Why does she get annoyed by that?” What, where, when, and how questions tend to stay on topic. “Why” has a way of shifting our perceptual dimensions. We tend to move to the “meta” level when we ask why. For instance, “What are you cooking?” stays on topic, but ask your friend, “Why are you cooking that?” Your friend may need to stop cooking and think.
On NPR, I once heard a mother tell a story about motivating her children to clean their rooms. She figured they could have fun cleaning if she turned it into a competition. She told them, “Let’s see who can clean faster!” The boy excitedly rushed to his room to start cleaning but the girl stayed put and asked, “Why?” A good question. Why should she compete to clean? This forced the mother to step back and objectively evaluate her own idea, that is, she had to see it from a meta level. Asking “why” has this effect.
When I see anything, my brain keeps traversing the meta levels and eventually gets to a point where my thoughts don’t seem to have anything to do with the origin. The question of how it tastes becomes secondary, and my mind is consumed with an unstoppable investigation into why things are the way they are.
It’s exhausting for me too. It’s not like I want to do this. My brain just does it automatically. I’m not trying to do it. And, I cannot stop myself from asking why I do it.
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