Thought-Provoking Questions or Mindless Answers

We must continue to repeat asking the unanswerable questions; not simply because we may one day have answers, but because questions without answers challenge us to think abstract thoughts. Most questions, I believe, were once unanswerable. Science and physics and technology and mathematics and other arcane branches of intellectual exploration have answered many of those questions. But many more remain. Even as we carve away at knowing the unknown, though, we must ask new questions for which we have no answers. Failing to explore the unfathomable would be tantamount to extinguishing the thrilling excitement that gives life its beautiful mystery. Stopping “pointless” inquiry would rob us of the extraordinary joy of things as simple—and as complex—as the awe we feel while watching a magnificent sunrise or sunset. Such delights do not prove the existence of a supreme being anymore than does the polio vaccine or the understanding of the role of DNA. They simply emphasize the wonders of the universe. Many Nobel prize-winning scientists have dismissed the concept of a supreme being, while acknowledging the inexplicable beauty of…reality. Questions always will take us to the edge of wonder and awe.


This morning’s coffee has an off-taste; a flavor I find more than mildly offensive. Perhaps it’s the interaction with the remnants of that taste of toothpaste. Or the water may be “off.” Or maybe it’s the coffee itself. Lately, I’ve noticed some disturbing changes in coffee’s flavor. Both at home and at Melinda’s. Yesterday, we went to Melinda’s for breakfast after dropping the dog off for boarding; because of an earlier experience with unpleasant coffee at the coffee shop, I opted for water, instead.  I’ve been fantasizing about strong, rich, flavorful coffee. Some people loathe Starbucks’ coffee; I do not. It’s one of the only places in memory where I have been able to dependably get very strong, very flavorful coffee. But I haven’t had Starbucks’ coffee in years. It’s time I break that drought.


Humans started wearing shoes about 40,000 years ago (evidence from the Armenia Areni caves suggests), according to an interesting video short I watched this morning. The short, about Australians’ somewhat odd habit of going barefoot (to a much greater extent, supposedly, than other cultures), inquires into the reason for the uniquely Australian habit of going barefoot in public places. As I watched the video clip, I was taken by a clip from an old promotional video that referred to the tendency for Australians, year-round, to “surf and swim and sunbake.” What’s that? “Sunbake?” That’s right. In the U.S., we would call sunning ourselves by a different term, “sunbathing,” the Australians would call it “sunbaking.” But, back to the issue of barefootedness; it’s common, though by not means universal, in Australia. As one might expect, going barefoot is more common in outdoor settings in leisure atmospheres, but it’s not restricted to those locales. This little tidbit will not alter my view of the world, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.


Thanks, again, to BBC, I learned this morning of a city in India where it is forbidden to sell or consume meat. Beginning in 2019, the local government has banned the sale and consumption of meat with a 250m radius of all Varanasi temples and heritage sites. The citizens of the city seem to be completely on-board with the prohibition. One resident is quoted in the article as saying, “My family and I have been pure vegetarians for generations. We refuse to even drink water in a home where eggs are consumed.” That is some serious dedication.

While I have toyed with the idea, off and on, of vegetarianism, I have never quite gotten there. But the more I consider the obvious reality that diets can be very healthy without the reliance on any meat products, the more my thoughts turn that direction. Reading about and watching videos about animal treatment practices I consider abhorrent reinforces the idea that eating meat is not something I believe is necessary. But, on the other hand, I love the flavor and texture of meat. I love smoking and grilling meat. Yet when I consider that many animals that form part of my diet may well be sentient beings, I hate the idea. Lately, especially, I find it difficult to square my love of grilled octopus with my belief that the creatures are intelligent and feeling. And the idea of killing lambs or calves or full-grown cows is tough to think about. Yet many creatures I might eat are carnivorous. At what point do I draw the line? This is one of those questions that cannot be completely answered without drawing assumptions about “knowledge” we do not possess. People who raise cattle for beef are likely to think vegetarianism is fundamentally off-key, at best. But, then, those people probably force themselves to avoid even giving a shred of credibility to the idea of limiting or eliminating the consumption of meat. Their economic livelihoods are, from their perspectives, more important than the idea of treating animals with dignity (and, I would argue, killing animals for food is hard to label a “dignified” thing to do to animals). It’s a tough question. I love beef, lamb, pork, seafood of all kinds, etc., etc. But I find it difficult to think about putting creatures to death simply to satisfy my craving for the flavor of their flesh. Yet that’s exactly what I do. Hmm. Hmm, indeed.


I may not blog much for the next several days. Just throwing that out there.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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