Ask Questions

Always ask questions.

We talk often about knowledge, what it means, how to attain it and we encourage our kids to always ask questions. We tell them, “Don’t pretend to know something. Get to the core of what you don’t understand by utilizing resources around you.”  Asking questions is a fundamental part of understanding the world. Young or old, this is how we LEARN.

Albert Einstein talked often about the importance of balancing creativity with learning and thought this was the “supreme act” of a good teacher, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination; Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Baseball and softball rule our summers on land and we love it. The tournaments are great fun and the kids practice hard, but we have noticed that the intuitive play of the game is mastered in the backyard. The more the kids play together, have fun together, the better they are on the field. They trust each other because their friendships have grown deep over slip-and-slide whiffle ball, backyard home-run derbies and mountains of post-play ice-cream.

“A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun.” – Bill Watterson

Last year, one of our kids had a coach who rebuked questions. He considered questions an inferiority complex, not a sign of intelligence. He had an, “If you have to ask, you shouldn’t be here” sort of attitude. It’s hard to educate in an open way when an adult unknowingly pushes back our progress. Though a good experience for all, to learn first hand how ineffective communication and admonishing curiosity are qualities that stagger creativity and keep people, of any age, from giving their best selves.

Fortunately, the kids played on multiple teams (17 different coaches from their many teams this year alone) and there is something to learn from every coach, in every sport.

“A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers.”  – Helen Keller

Interesting, that while baseball season was just getting underway, Oliver wrote this response as part of a writing lesson:

“A very smart person, Albert Einstein went to a high school in Germany. He would ask so many questions that he got kicked out of school for it! My sister and I ask a lot of questions as well, but not enough to get kicked out. I think the quote is true. Smart people ask questions and that is how they get smarter.”  – O. Rey

I love how he has figured out this powerful concept about learning and life. Knowledge comes from persistent curiosity and robust imagination.

“Preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself”, says artist Bill Watterson. Rilke wrote books of poetry on this same subject. *See below for link to Rilke’s book titled, “Letters to a Young Poet.”

Last week we were fortunate to go to the Muhammed Ali Center and Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. We loved it. It is a formidable space loaded with memorabilia, interactive displays and a well-curated show of Cassius Clay’s life mission. He was a man of many, many words. His whole life was about questioning the status quo and giving back to others.

Ali wrote beautiful poetry, created works of art and made poignant statements about religion, racism and justice. He questioned everything.

We were beyond delighted to learn that Muhammed Ali kept a poem in his pocket at all times – in particular because that poem is one of our family favorites: “If”, by Rudyard Kipling.


by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Knowledge, creativity, playfulness and curiosity… all work together to enhance and empower our lives. Embrace the power of the Q? Yes, we do.

Bill Watterson is the artist and creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. His quotes were found in Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings”.

Also from Maria Popova: Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). “In this modern classic, the poet makes a case for the importance of living the questions, embracing uncertainty and allowing for intuition.” Shout out: If you don’t already subscribe to BrainPickings, check it out! 
IF by Rudyard Kipling is in the public domain.
The Muhammad Ali Center is a non-profit museum and cultural center in Louisville, Kentucky. Dedicated to boxer Muhammad Ali, a native of Louisville, it is located in the city’s West Main District. (Wikipedia)
Einstein quote found in BrainyQuote:

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