The Most Important Quality

“Why are you so skeptical,” asked an old friend. Surprised I was at this question, at his ability to see through me, to analyze a part of my soul which I had almost forgotten to notice anymore. I went to answer, but I froze, and I realized I was defenseless. My beliefs were not without defense, but I was, in holding them blindly. How long had I gone without questioning my own beliefs and ideas? Where and when did they come from? In honesty, his question haunted my mind for days and weeks, until I came to an answer.

I came to the ultimate conclusion that to question the government, or the world, or society and its customs was in a sense the main principle of America, of humanity, it is the main principle we were founded on, and for. It is the quintessential spirit of America, to always question that which we are told. And not with the aim to simply undermine, attack, or be different for difference’s sake, but with the aim to learn more, to further our understanding, and to ask the ever important question of if this can work a better way. It was this question which led our founding fathers to think of a new system, one which could benefit all people. It was this question which led the many great people in our society past and present to innovate, invent, and reinvent. It is the very fabric of American society, it is the very soul of our country.

Curiosity is the one characteristic above all that leads to the creation of great men, women, and societies. It alone gives one the opportunity and drive to learn more about the world, to learn more about their fellow citizens, of both their country and their planet, to understand their friend and their enemy. Above America, curiosity is the sole force that has driven human beings to where we are today. It has allowed our ancestors and our species to continually move forward, allowing for the removal of past dogmas and beliefs to make room for new systems and visions of what life can be and mean. Curious people have continually expanded the realm of what is possible in any and all aspects of life.

It is truly our primary duty as Americans, and human beings, to not only remain curious, but to stoke our curiosity, to cultivate it, to promote it in ourselves, our brothers, and our sisters, to instill a desire for answers and questions in our children so much so that they may never be satisfied, that they will always look to further understand the infinite complexities that make up our world today and to push past them, so that they will hunger for knowledge and understanding of their fellow man, so that they will never look to an enemy with anger, but with the questions of how and why, so that they will remember in moments of frustration that everyone alive, every friend, foe, or enemy, every adversary, colleague, or companion is too a human being, that they too are living a life full of the same intricacies as theirs, but forever unique, that they too have lived every aspect of life, as we all do, that they too were born to parents, they too had family and friends, that they too experienced anger, hate, victory and defeat, that they too have loved, and lost, that we have all lived the same lives, while so unbelievably different that it is hubris to judge one for what he does and does not do, for it is the total sum of their life which has led them here, and considering the mass of destiny and experience at their back, at this point there may have been little they could do to have avoided their actions, that considering their actions or not, we are all meant to be forgiven, to be understood, to be loved as you would your brother, or sister, or son, or daughter. It is undoubtedly true that if you were born in their place, and lived their life, you would Be them, and if they were born in your place, and lived your life, they would Be you.

Allow us to give our children and ourselves the greatest gift of curiosity in asking what is right and what is wrong, in constantly questioning our own beliefs, why things are the way they are, why it is said to be one way over another, to never fear a question asked or posed or given, to in fact desire that fear, to know that to question is as essential as being questioned, for there is no greater gift in life than to be asked a question that challenges us, to be asked a moral question that makes us step back and reexamine everything we thought we knew. For it is in these moments of realization and questioning that we come to a cross in the road, that we are given the opportunity to ask ourselves if we are truly capable of the most pious act there is, to change our minds, to truly change our minds, to truly consider options and realities other than the ones we have already considered. For if we say we are not capable of changing our own minds when presented with challenging questions and realities, how are we to expect any progress to be made. To deny a question, a chance for a dialogue, a chance to learn or to grow, we shut down the world, we shut out life, and we become stagnant and solid, we are left behind.

If we decide we will not change our minds, that we are not at all open to the possibility of asking a question, of having a discussion, to the possibility of new information or realities, then why talk at all? There is no point in discussion or conversation if we do not accept the chance that our views will be challenged and changed.

How can we as human beings expect to grow or learn in any meaningful way without challenging our ideas, notions, perspectives, and beliefs. It is in asking ourselves questions that we do not know the answer to that we have the greatest opportunity for growth. It may be easy to ask ourselves what we are going to do today, but much more difficult to ask what we are going to do this year. What do we want to accomplish in a year? Where do we want to be at the end of it? Who do we want to be? Then the perhaps harder question, how will we get there? What are the options we have for accomplishing our dreams? Who are we? What do we live for? What is the meaning of life? It is only in asking these questions, questions which truly challenge our minds and our souls, that we grease the wheels of thought and allow for the changing of our minds and hearts. It is only in asking these questions that we are human.

In today’s day and age the ability to have any question answered in a simple search on the phone takes away these necessary opportunities for thinking and growth. Sometimes it is necessary to Not find an answer in an instant, but to allow our brains to think and flow freely, to figure out the answer for ourselves. Even if the answer necessitates a quick google, sometimes it is better to wait until tomorrow, to give the mind time to wander and wonder. To remove the possibility to wonder, to imagine, we lose the opportunity to practical critical thinking and deduction, we miss out on the opportunity that human beings have had for all of history until now, to Not know the answer, and to wonder on it anyway, to try and create an argument, to reason and guess, and guess repeatedly, to debate, to disagree, to learn together.

It is now and it has always been the lone job of the student to question the teacher. To accept not blindly what they are told, but to further inquire into the world, to use their resources to ask questions of how and why the world is as it is, to probe as deep as the mind allows into every subject put before them. To question the teacher as a student is in no way a form of disrespect, it is the highest praise, it is a showcase of the curiosity that has been stoked in the student, it is the student’s expression of their desire to learn and grow.

This is so just as it is so that it is the lone job of the teacher to stimulate curiosity in the mind of the student, to convince them to question, to instill in them a burning desire for knowledge and understanding, a hunger and passion for the world which can only be quenched by a furthering of their understanding, an expansion of what the world is and what is possible, but which can never be truly satisfied. It is the job of the teacher to pose questions to students which cannot be easily answered, but which allows the brains of all to run freely and wildly as they search for answers of why and how.

The more challenging a question posed is, the greater the opportunity one has to grow and learn from it. A truly great question challenges the brain. A truly great question cannot help but captivate the soul of anyone who fully desires to answer it.

It is our sole duty as members of the human race to be both the student and the teacher, at all times, to all people, in all situations, to constantly push at what we know, and to take every opportunity to learn from our fellow humans, our brothers, our sisters, our parents and our children, our friends and our enemies, and every person that we see, or meet, or know.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

Ian Bard

Ian Bard is a journalist, writer, poet, and a student of life, looking to ask questions and take every opportunity to continually learn and grow, through experiences and people met, and to encourage all others to do the same.

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