The musings of a fourth year English medical student

Friday, 20 December 2013

Asking 'Why?'

I am OBSESSED with asking why. I question practically everything I do, from whether I put on make up in the morning to whether I apply to medical school or pursue theatre. But many of our day to day actions are done without any thought whatsoever.

I feel that everyone has a point of where one thinks it is suitable to question a particular matter regarding oneself, and past that point we never think twice. This leads me onto my question, why do we sometimes not ask why? Is it partially due to fear of some sort? From my own personal experience, asking why to certain decisions has left me feeling very emotional, confused, angry and blinking tired. I can feel bitter afterwards, leeching out my feelings in an aggressive way to my loved ones. Sometimes I have a sudden moment of panic over a decision I made earlier, sending me into a frenzy of thoughts. Other times, upon the realisation of something, I am disheartened in the knowledge that it will take me a long time to solve the issue at present. I don't like this feeling, and I'm sure others have felt this way from time to time. So (ashamedly) I try to avoid it. The uncomfortable truths I sometimes lead my life by make me feel bad and inferior. But I've always been the type of person that promotes a 'carpe diem' mentality, so I certainly don't want to waste my time crying over spilt milk if there's the off chance I'll be run over by a bus 5 minutes later.

I do find it fascinating how we all have our own definitive, what I would call, 'boundaries of conscious thought'. Take Caitlin Moran. I love the strident feminist's journalism; she promotes values to women that are liberating and promote positive mental health. Yet she's a smoker. She is an intelligent woman, no doubt, who is fully aware of the implications from her longstanding habit. I'm sure she has thought many a time about quitting but all the same decides to continue. It's very bizarre, almost ironic how she can promote positive mental health as she undermines her own physical health. I'd probably say smoking is just beyond her 'boundary of conscious thought', she likes to smoke and therefore she believes there is no need to question (or justify) her decision.

Sometimes it is too uncomfortable to question our actions because the thought of changing scares us. Nobody likes to be ostracised by family, friends or society due to difference in opinion or lifestyle. It's can be rather embarrassing to be different sometimes, and so in order to relinquish our angst over matters it is much more comfortable not to even think about them at all. I speak from personal experience. I was a vegetarian for 6 years and vegan for two; now I am an omnivore again. It's upsetting to see people whom you thought loved you to then demean you and put you down, especially when you believe you're just trying to do your best as a human being. Then, to change my mind again after so many years, I was afraid of being labelled a hypocrite.

I don't believe people should be afraid to ask why. Think of Nelson Mandela, Women's right to vote, the recent EU animal testing ban on cosmetics. Even if you feel like a minnow fish in a very big pond, your opinions and therefore your actions do matter. Great things have happened because people had the audacity to probe further and rather than turning away; they peered closer with a bloody big magnifying glass. Audacity isn't necessarily a dirty word, but a great one. I'm not trying to infer that we should all become brazen activists - even if you take the time to ask why do you never to unload the dishwasher and insist it's someone else's problem (guilty here). Realisation and questioning leads to informed decisions and works out best for all parties. Simple as.

Let's not overlook one very important factor: reasoning. There's no point asking why if you still are naive in believing the bigoted opinions instilled into you by your peers, not to mention if you allow your current prejudices justify your discrimination. It's not about finding excuses, but seeing things for what they really are. Do your opinions have evidence? How do you think people react when you behave that way?  Is it only the select few who benefit (if any) from small minded thinking?

For me, I worry a lot about the environment, what foods really are healthy for humans, particularly the plant based diet versus the omnivorous one, why do I drink alcohol to excess sometimes, why do I want to be thin, why do I care about people's perception of me. There are many more but it would take far too long to list all of them. Maybe I'll find the answers one day. Maybe there are no true answers.

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