• Maureen Kenney, Art Nomad

Where Have All Our Questions Gone?

The five Kenney kids: Maureen, Chet, Terese, Kris, and Kathy, Maine, 1965

Researchers estimate that as children we ask about 100 questions per day, yet as adults our average number is six. Six questions per day. Considering that two of our six questions are used up with such mundane inquiries as, “Where are my car keys?”, and, “What's for dinner?”, this leaves very little room for creative curiosity.  

Armed with this research tidbit, I decide to quantify what ninety-four unasked questions per day means. Using myself as a yard stick, assuming I started verbalizing cogent questions around age two, assuming a gradual decline in questions asked by my adolescence, and assuming my fiftieth birthday as a good stopping point, I calculate my “unasked questions” backlog to be 1,453,590. Good gracious! 

Estimated # of unasked questions over 50 year life span

Though you may sense the levity with which I approach this topic, there is a sincere concern underlying my message. Why do we stop asking great questions? How does our endless curiosity whittle down over time? Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we lose our innate inquisitiveness, or at least our desire to speak aloud the questions that spring to our mind. Do we become self-conscious? Are we afraid to embarrass ourselves? Perhaps it is due to the responses our questions evoke, such as:

  • “Why are you always asking so many questions?”

  • "You are too young to understand."

  • "Do as I say and that's all you need to know."

  • "It's rude to be so nosy."

  • Silence, followed by the "eye roll", followed by "the look"

Is asking 100 questions per day excessive? Probably if you ask the same person all 100 questions, you will discover the answer is YES, as I did on a recent hike with my spouse. After about twenty ponderous questions on the flora and fauna encountered on our nature hike, his counter-question became, “Why do you ask?” - spoken like a former psychiatrist. 

With this in mind, I am committing myself to ask at least one probing, mind bending, thought provoking question each day. I realize this is a far cry from 100, and that my unasked questions backlog grows bigger each day, but at least it's a start.  Here is my starter kit for the next few days. 

  • “What is something I’ve never thought about before?”

  • “I wonder what will happen if I start (or stop) doing this?”

  • “Who is the most impressive person I know and why?”

  • “What does the flag of Guatemala look like and what does it symbolize?”

Maybe I’ll learn something new and have a little fun at the same time. I have to go now … I'm reading up on the symbolism of the Guatemalan flag. Happy asking!

-Originally published 22 January 2013

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