Every parent knows that at around three or four years old your child will go through a ‘why?’ phase. Doesn’t matter what you say, they just keep on asking why. Why is the playground? Well, it’s so children can play. Why? Because children like playing. Why? Because play is how children learn? Why? Because that’s the way children are made. Why? And so on. OH is the only parent I have ever known who has exhausted a child’s ‘why’ phase, delighting in these questions and giving the fullest possible answers until the child gets fed up and decides it’s just not worth it. I tried various tactics such as ‘why do you think it is?’ but the child was wise to that and just kept on pumping out whys until I asked myself why I’d ever thought being a mother was such a great idea. But I also think OH came up with the best explanation of the ‘why?’ phase, which is that the child just wants you to keep on talking and has fixed on the word ‘why?’ as the best way to achieve this.
But whether or not children want to know why, adults certainly do. I’ve noticed that no matter what problems I’m going through, they always ease mightily when I know why. If I can see a reason for something happening, the clouds part and the weight is lifted; even though the problem remains, it doesn’t oppress me nearly as much. And so it was last night. I went to bed later than usual feeling properly tired, closed my book and laid my head on the pillow, wishing I could do what I did when I was younger and read lying down with the book propped up beside me. I closed my eyes. Instantly my brain started jumping like a hyperactive child. I tried all the usual tricks; whole-body relaxation, mental exercises and slow breathing – nothing worked. I lay awake for ages and finally fell into an unsatisfactory doze from which I awoke around six. I was very perplexed by this. Normally as long as I’m tired enough I’ll fall asleep without too much hassle, even if I do wake early. I lay awake wondering what could be happening. Was it a delayed reaction to the jab? And then it hit me: it was the tea! Yesterday morning I had a strong pot of tea, my first for ages, and this was the result. Immediately I felt lighter and even though I didn’t go back to sleep, I wasn’t worried about it.
No matter what’s going on in your life, it’s important to know why. And that’s why philosophy matters: science can give us the how but only philosophy can give us the why. Though I must say it’s bloody annoying not to be able to have the occasional post of hot, strong tea without suffering the consequences.