My editor hates it when I ask rhetorical questions. They’re a bad writing device. She always tells me to give my opinion instead of just asking questions. The problem is that I always have far more questions than answers and whenever I have figured something out, it just leads me to ask more. But perhaps questions are the best answers.
Answers have an air of certainty and finality. In reality, very few things are either and most are neither. Questions lack such pretension. Not only do they ask where we should go from here, they also question how we arrive at where we are. They’re not as neat or as formal and they do not fit as well into a little check box, but they’re more honest. Questions acknowledge that they don’t know. They acknowledge that they’re not sure.
It makes sense to me that most people prefer answers to questions. Answers fit. They’re what is expected. In theory, answers are good, but in reality, they’re always deficient in some way or another – hence the volumes of critiques to answers offered by anyone from Darwin to Marx. These answers are only accepted as “truth” until a new answer is discovered anyway. Answers may be more fulfilling, but questions are more enduring.
My life has never fit into a check box very well. I used to ask, “why didn’t I fit the answers?” Now I ask why the answers don’t fit me. I still don’t have an answer for either. Maybe I’m a freak, a genetic mistake, a wilful traitor to my being. Maybe it’s the patriarchy imposing so-called “natural” categories that don’t really fit anyone. Maybe it’s society’s problem for being uncomfortable with people in the middle. I don’t know. But I do know that I feel better asking the second question than I did when I asked the first.
For me, at least right now, that question is my answer. It’s not solid and it’s not all-knowing, but it doesn’t pretend to be those things. It acknowledges its weaknesses with the question mark at the end.
No matter what I write, however, I long for an answer to that question. Even if it’s probably wrong, I just want something to hold on to. I want an answer to throw back at all of those hateful people who have made my life miserable. I want to know why these people are so scared of difference. But longing for answers makes me ask myself why I want an answer. This leaves me again with nothing but questions.