From the time I first heard the phrase as a young man, I have struggled to understand why “living in the questions” would appeal to anyone. Aren’t answers the entire point?
As I’ve written elsewhere, I derive much aesthetic satisfaction from my molecules having finally aligned themselves so that they have some clue of how the universe works. The answers — at last!
Or so I thought, until I read Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos. Greene speculates about nine plausible ways that parallel universes (“the multiverse“) might exist. In fact, most of them entail an infinite number of universes.
Just when you think you have one universe down pat, along come infinity more.
It’s unlikely that I will live to see any of those multiverse theories proven or disproven, but who knows — when my grandparents were born, the existence of other galaxies beyond our Milky Way was not even known. If our knowledge could expand from one galaxy to over 176 billion in less than a hundred years, maybe one additional universe will show up any day now.
We made this progress because we never stopped asking questions. When we found an answer, we said, “Fine. What’s next?”
What if we hadn’t done that? We would be living in the same misery as pre-scientific peoples throughout the world. Misery? Yes, misery: ravaged by disease, driven by superstition to sacrifice their own children, and orders of magnitude more likely to die in war.
So there’s a question for us to ponder, and then ponder more deeply: To what extent do we owe our happiness to ceaselessly asking questions about the world?