14 October 2009

Question the Question

'How are you?'

You may hear that question more than 12 times in a given day yet never answer it once. If you do answer it, odds are you were not honest in your answer. Even the honest answers don't seem to fully fulfill the request.

'How are you?'

We ask this to break the ice. We ask to feign interest. We ask without expecting a legitimate answer in return.

It is a question that requires no answer, yet it's not rhetorical.

If we are to take people at their word, this question does more harm than good.

When we talk about language and how it has lost meaning and been drained of strength or force, this phrase is at the top of the list. Originally, i'm sure people asked each other 'How are you doing today?' with such honesty that the answers they received matched their honesty.

Whatever happened in the interval, we now have a question that is rarely asked with honesty and even more rarely answered in the same way.

If what we say is to be taken as truth, if we are to be understood as honest individuals, we must discard this question except for those instances we intentionally ask it. Without intentionality, we are left only with the accidental. As one who does not want to live an accidental life, i do my best to ask people questions that mean something. When i want to greet you, i will greet, not insincerely inquire of your well-being.

Ask questions that matter.

Say what you mean.

Mean what you say.

They are not always the same.