That’s the Why

We used to say this thing, when we were little. 

We would employ it, if ever we were accosted by a difficult question or, more often, if a question arose where the answer might incriminate us with our teachers or parents in some way. 

“Ken, why did you do that thing?”



More silence.

“Ken, I’m talking to you.”

“That’s the why.”


“That’s the why.”

It didn’t make any sense, of course. That was partly the point. It was the unanswerable answer.

There was also a slight air of defiance that went with it. This is my answer to you. It’s all you’re going to get. Deal with it. Hearing it now, one might feel that it would work best if coupled with some rude suggestive gesture. A finger wave or a crotch grab. 

“That’s the why.”

But that never happened. Not when I was small. All we had were the words. It was less an attack, now that I think of it, more an admission of bafflement. “That’s all I’ve got for you, by way of explanation, sorry.”

I hadn’t thought about it in years but I’ve been thinking about it this week. So many unanswerable questions arose this week. Why that man murdered that poor lady? Why that pilot did what he seems to have done? My mind can’t come up with the answers. More than that. My mind can’t even fathom the possibility of the existence of a logical answer. Thrashing around in the deep end of human behaviour, without any form of flotation device, one reaches out for whatever one can.

“That’s the why.”

It worked as a kid (after a fashion), perhaps it could work again. Perhaps the only sane way might be to acknowledge that there are no good answers. That’s the ‘why’ itself if the only thing that really exists on any tangible plane. 

It’s certainly tempting.

But it’s not the way forward. I know it’s not.

It may be okay for kids but we’re adults now and we have to push the envelope further than this. No matter how unpalatable the truth may be, we are predestined to keep digging for it, no matter how likely it is that we will never be any wiser, no matter how muddy we may get along the way.

The best thing about ‘That’s the why’ was that it didn’t really hurt anyone. Sure, there was some bafflement and consternation, some extra homework, a few additional ‘Hail Mary's and a sojourn in the bedroom until tea. But nobody got damaged.

The necessary, adult, quest for the unpalatable truth isn’t like that. It can really hurt people. We have to watch out for that. Keep hunting but with a weather eye on how we hunt and who we touch may as we do it.


That’s the why.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Go on then, I'm intrigued by the use of the lifebelt photo but I somehow reckon that I've already guessed your response...