Why is a hard question to answer in any language.
There are a lot of big questions we ask ourselves and others. Who am I? Where am I going? How will I get there? But perhaps the biggest question anyone can ask is “why”. “Why is this happening?” “Why is something the way it is?” And so on and so on. It’s been asked countless times, by countless people at all ages and stages of life. Singers, sages, and scientists have all asked this question. But has anyone arrived at a definitive answer? Or is just asking the question an answer in itself?
Anyone who has spent time with a small child (or has been one) has played the “why” game with the nearest grown-up. Asking adults “why” helps children to understand the world around them. It’s also an excellent way to delay bedtime. Sometimes, though, asking why can serve another purpose, like staving off an alien invasion, as Lilly does in Lindsay Camp’s hilarious picture book Why.
“Why do I need to know this?” is a question often asked by students, frequently followed by: “Will this be on the exam?” There’s an urban legend that a professor somewhere, sometime, gave an exam with only one question – “why”. Has this really ever happened or is it hearsay? I’m not certain there’s an answer to that, but an article published in Maclean’s magazine a few years ago postulates that it could be the greatest exam question ever, or perhaps never, asked.
Singers are also notorious for asking why. Back in the 1950s Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers asked: “Why do fools fall in love?” for the first time, although not for the last. And, a few decades later, the Carpenters wanted to know: “Why do birds suddenly appear?” Have a listen on Hoopla for the answer to these why questions.
Asking “why” is not only for children trying to make sense of the world. The search for the answer to this question carries on for us as adults. Some people, like scientists and philosophers, have made a career out of asking why.
And now, on a more philosophical note..
When I did a title search in the WPL catalogue using the word why, I came up with a long, long list of titles on almost any topic someone could ask why about, including some subjects that I had never considered.
Looking for answers to the question “why” is a part of the human condition, one which has led to great discoveries, lengthy, heated debates, a lot of frustration and sleepless nights. Even with all of the vast amount of information and the ease of communication available today, I don’t think it can or will ever be answered.
However, in the course of writing this I’ve run across a couple of answers. If you prefer one word responses you could go with “because”. Or, if you’re a parent it might be “because I said so”. If you’re a Douglas Adams fan, the answer could be 42.
As for my own personal answer to this question? I fall back on the perennial classic: “Why not?”