Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Most Powerful Question

In an episode of the Sixties television series The Prisoner titled "The General", Patrick McGoohan's character, the nameless number 6, destroys the dangerous computer with the unanswerable question, "Why?"

I asked Siri, "Why?", and she said, "Good question.  Anything else I can do for you?"

When I asked Siri again, she said, "Frankly, I've wondered that myself".

Obviously programmers are more savvy about the question "why?" and I suspect that artificial intelligence when it arrives will be more capable and elusive than the primitive computers of Sixties television series.

But, to people in power, to ones who want unquestioning obedience, it is the scariest and most frightening question in the world.  Faced with a world dominating computer, the question may ultimately fail, but faced with mortal humanity it is something you should singularly never let go of and never be talked out of asking.

It's the classic question that annoys parents.  It deserves a laugh and some entertaining enjoyment when spoken by children.  It can be delightful itching powder when deftly employed by an adult bent on using their skills at How To Annoy People.

It is a question you should never let anyone take from you.

An oft-cited and often quoted story from Primo Levi is of the icicle at Auschwitz when he was thirsty.  A guard destroyed the icicle, and Levi asked, "Why?"  The guard's soul crushing response was, "There is no 'why' here."

Let me say that characterization again:  The statement, "There is no 'why' here" is soul crushing.

And you should resist it.  You should defy it.  You should ask why.

The whole planet should be posted at frequent intervals with signs that say, "Ask Why" and "There is always Why here."

It is the single question power hates.

Behind that question come truths and answers and criticisms and analysis and repentance and confessions.

The guard at Auschwitz knew it.  He broke the question in an effort to break the will just the same way that he broke the icicle.

Why did people paint pictures in the dark in caves?

Why is the Fibonacci Sequence everywhere?

Why can't I fly when I want to?

Why did you remove my name and make me anonymous?

Why have you relocated my family?

Why aren't there enough inspectors?

Why are people dying from poisonings?

Why are taxes going up but bridges are falling down?

Defy anyone who tries to stop you from asking why.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


The cherry tree blooms in the first week of April every year.

Spring is here.