Why fascinates me. I don't know why. It just does.
Is there a problem with that? I respond "no." But asking that question belies the answer. Better to say, "sometimes there's no why, just is."
Reasons lie on a sliding scale, though.
In some areas of science causes and effects can be determined in amazing detail. If such wasn't the case, I wouldn't be able to type this blog post on a computer and publish it on the Internet where you can read it. Nor would space probes be able to reach the most distant planets in our solar system with such impressive accuracy.
Even in physics, though, causal interrelationships are so complex, a simple understanding of what makes such-and-such happen quickly unravels under a more penetrating gaze. And when we ask the Big Question, why does anything exist at all?, both science and religion are clueless.
That said, let's get closer to home with our why'ing. Why do we do what we do? Seemingly this should be a fairly easy question to answer given that we have direct access to the brain/mind that directs our thoughts and actions.
But neuroscientists have learned that the reasons we offer up for why we did something often aren't reasonable. Our conscious self likes to fashion a compelling story that explains events in our lives. Religion is popular because it offers up satisfying, though unprovable, answers to "why? questions.
God's will. Karma. Fate. Lesson from the universe. When reasons aren't apparent, religion steps in to feed the answer-starved brain.
So I'm increasingly convinced that a key to happily withstanding the allure of religiosity is to go on a "why?" diet.
Not when it comes to scientific, mechanical, and other questions where causes and effects can be linked successfully, but with existential, relationship, and personal questions where why did this happen? can't be fathomed -- only embraced as a glorious it-is-what-it-is mystery.
I'm not a terrific practicer of what I preach, judging from the results of a Google search for "why" I conducted on my two blogs. Wow. The blog posts just went on and on. Obviously I love why.
More so in the past than now, though. I'm less inclined to wonder why I like something or want to do something. I don't second-guess myself as much, because I no longer believe so strongly that my first guess was under my control.
This gets us into some muddy philosophical and scientific ground where debates over how much free will we humans have, along with what "free will" means, are mucked about. (This Nature piece, "Neuroscience vs. philosophy: taking aim at free will," provides a good overview of the subject.)
But like I said in my previous post, much, if not most, of the causes for what we do, think, and feel flow from mindsprings beneath our conscious awareness. So we can ponder, introspect, meditate, contemplate, and analyze all we want. We'll never perceive the depths where the person psychologist Timothy D. Wilson calls the "stranger to ourselves" lives.
Here's some excerpts from his book with the same name, pluralized:
People's behavior is often determined by their implicit motives and non-conscious construals of the world. Because we do not have conscious access to these aspects of our personalities, we are blind to the ways in which they influence our behavior.
...We experience a thought followed by an action and assume that it was the conscious thought that caused that action. In fact a third variable -- a nonconscious intention -- might have produced both the conscious thought and the action.
...A sense of conscious will cannot be taken as evidence that conscious thoughts really did cause our behavior. The causal role of conscious thought has been vastly overrated; instead, it is often a post-hoc explanation of responses that emanated from the adaptive unconscious.
...There is a final puzzle about people's explanations of their own responses. Why don't we realize that our explanations are confabulations no more accurate than the causal reports of strangers? One of the major points of this chapter is that people's reasons about their own responses are as much conjectures as their reasons for other people's responses. Why, then, don't they feel this way?
One explanation is that it is important for people to feel that they are the well-informed captains of their own ship and know why they are doing what they are.
...Another key, I suggest, is that the amount of inside information we have produces a misleading feeling of confidence, namely the sense that with so much information we must be accurate about the causes of our responses, even when we are not.
Well, maybe the ancient Taoists should be listened to.
Drifting with the currents of life isn't only wise, it is inevitable, given the deep mental currents that direct us here and there uncontrollably. And knowing less can be knowing more if information is more prone to lead us astray, than guide us rightly.