Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Clarification on Questions

Dear Readers, you have caught me out. You are correct. I stand before you guilty as charged.

Questions, in general are not dangerous.

What I should have said is that questions "can" be dangerous, not that they are.

Now before you chastise me on this, let me explain.

There are, I think, two different types of questions. One of them is seeking explanation, such as "Why is the sky blue" or "Why do you think Baha'u'llah said no women on the Universal House of Justice". These are, in my own opinion, always good to ask. They are not dangerous (unless you ask too often without accepting a reasonable answer, then you may get bopped on the nose. And I'm thinking about the bozo who kept asking "But how do really know 1 + 1 = 2?" Sheesh.). (Oh, my answer to the guy about basic math was "Given our defintions of 1, +, = and 2, it is a true statement.)

The other type of question is more of a leading variety. They are generally asked by people in a position of some sort of authority, and are meant to help direct others towards a realization of some kind. These are the ones that I still mantain can be dangerous (note the word "can").

Oh, and it is not that they are dangerous in and of themselves, but that they can unintentionally force a flawed presupposition, such as "Have you stopped beating your wife yet". Obviously this particular question cannot be answered either yes or no without condemning oneself.

There is a wonderful book by Connie Willis, called Passage, in which she deals with this. When trying to interview people about near-death experiences, one interviewer is careful to not guide the interviewee, but asks questions like "Did you see anything? Can you describe it?" The other interviewer asks "Did you see the bright light? Even though it was brighter than anything you've ever seen, it didn't hurt your eyes, did it?"

You can see the difference between these types of questions.

When asking questions of the Baha'i community, and how we can serve more effectively, or better help bring about a new civilization based on spiritual principals, then we need to be careful how we word our questions.

That is all.

Apology done. Explanation finished (I think).

Time to get back to my own work.

You can go about your day now.  :)

Oh, and thanks for calling me to task. You all passed the test (he says, as if he planned all this).


  1. without a doubt, the intention of the questioner should be pure-hearted. But can we really judge the intention?

    If we were all active listeners though we could engage on the topic. Perhaps even more deeply, its not about what is being asked, but why it is being asked.

    The inappropriateness of intention aside, perhaps the real issue is that a fundamental deficiency exists that the community needs to address.

    Also, with fire we test the gold... any "nugget" or learning that is shared should be tested (action) and reflected upon within the context of our own community. If the speaker is convinced that their advice is good, test it on a small scale and reflect. There is no failure, just another way not to do something.

  2. Why doesn't the Universal House of Justice accept women in their leadership?

    Can women not lead, just like men?

    Don't give me that "Oh, women serve a different path, while men serve another".

    Equality for all. Just because the Baha'i Faith was born out of the Persian Society doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

  3. That's a great question, and I don't know an answer that would satisfy you. If you find one, could you let me, and every other Baha'i, know?

    I will point out, though, that equality is not the same as equivalency. For example, I could ask why girls get preference at education over boys, but I have found an answer that satisfies me.