QUESTION EVERYTHING?

“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”—John 20:24-25

Question-EverythingA few years ago I was asked to buy a t-shirt. It was part of a fundraiser for a local philosophy department’s student association. The slogan blazoned across the chest read: QUESTION EVERYTHING. It made me smile, the way that cheesy Hallmark cards often make me smile. Something so cute and quaint and noble about this notion: question everything. Philosophy’s all about questioning stuff, right? So what could be more natural than a philosophy student questioning everything? It’s a no-brainer, right? In Everything (2015), Aaron Haspel defines in a “no-brainer” as “an idea that is extremely persuasive as long as you don’t think about it.” Question everything is an idea of this kind.

We simply don’t have the time or energy to questioning everything. We all rely upon people and things we don’t understand. We trust the people on the highway not to veer into oncoming traffic. We trust that the food we’re eating isn’t poisoned. We trust that the people we leave our children with aren’t going to hurt them. We trust that the money we use has real value. We trust that the people who say they love us actually love us, despite the fact that we can never really be sure. We can never really know another person’s heart, not with certainty. And so on and so forth. We are swimming in a sea of trust each and every day.

People who’ve had their faith in the world profoundly shaken (by a psychotic break, a horrible accident, a devastating betrayal) people who actually question everything, are broken, profoundly dysfunctional shells of their former selves. At Projet PAL in Verdun, I worked with people who were recovering from severe mental health problems. What’s hardest for many of them is that they feel like they can no longer trust their own senses. They’re tormented by questions: Am I really talking to you? Are you really real? Is this really how I feel? Can I trust my feelings?

The same is true of those who’ve lived through a devastating betrayal. We’ve all known people who’ve been cheated on and habitually lied to, but imagine what it must be like to be Paula Rader, the woman who discovered that the man she was married to for 34 years (Dennis Rader, the father of her children) was the notorious serial killer known as the BTK killer. She thought her husband was a good man. They went to Christ Lutheran every Sunday morning. He was even elected president of the church council. How hard it must be for Paula to trust people now. How hard it must be for her to trust her own judgment. She must be tormented by questions: How could I have been so stupid? So blind? Hard as it must be, the Paula Raders of this world won’t be able to resume anything like a normal life until they begin to trust again, until they learn how to have faith again. Because faith isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2017)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

3 thoughts on “QUESTION EVERYTHING?

  1. The T-shirt might reply: “Well done good and faithful servant. You have found the true meaning of my message: Question everything, including messages that seem so obvious that they require no further questioning.”

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  2. Really good, John. So true. It really is a question of ´what` we have faith in, not íf´. And the need to be able to trust reality. It gives us an anchor to the world.

    Like

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