Ethan Fast

Ask the Question

22 April, 2012 -- Menlo Park, CA

You should ask the question more often. What the question is doesn’t particularly matter, nor does the reason you ask it. You don’t even have to say anything, not vocally.

But you should ask anyway.

Implicit assumptions can be dangerous. I often find myself wondering, as I reconstruct a conversation I’ve just enjoyed, why I took that at face value (and that can be just about anything). I’m sure most people have had a similar experience. Yet that doesn’t have be a human utterance. It might be a sale at your local supermarket, or an unfamiliar face that meets your eyes across a crowded intersection.

The important thing is a thing of omission. You didn’t question that, whatever it was. You just imbibed it, and shoved it — perhaps kicking and screaming — into your existing worldview. You may have made a mistake, or you may have been entirely correct, but you never thought about it.

Of course you can’t truly think about everything you do. This would be an enormous waste of time. But it’s safe to say that most of us are in no danger of introspective paralysis, at least not with respect to our perceptions. So ask the question more often. It doesn’t matter what you ask.

To be useful, the question needs only to exist.